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Above: Judith Billings, co-chair of the Council on Public Legal Education, presents the 2009 award to
Rick Nagel at the YMCA Youth and Government's annual mock trial breakfast in Olympia.
Rick Nagel, an inspiring coach to mock trial teams and the founder of a Law and Society class at Seattle’s Franklin High School, received the Flame of Democracy Award from the Council on Public Legal Education in 2009.
Nagel coached hundreds of students who participated in the YMCA’s mock trial competition, including the 2000 national championship team from Franklin High School.
Nagel was also honored for his commitment to providing inner-city students with quality civics education at Franklin, where he created a Law and Society class in 1968. There, he rarely gave out As and held students to high standards.
“The goal is very simple,” Nagel once told The Seattle Times. “I try to get (students) to think.”
Judith Billings, co-chair of CPLE and former State Superintendent of Public Instruction, presented the Flame of Democracy Award to Nagel at the YMCA Youth and Government’s annual mock trial breakfast in Olympia in March 2009.
Though his mock trial students practiced long hours and learned the art of interviewing witnesses in a courtroom, Nagel had no desire to encourage them to become lawyers. He believed teaching students how to reason, use analytical skills, and improve their poise in public would serve them well, no matter what profession they pursued.
Nagel’s mock trial teams argued before an array of real-life lawyers and judges, including former Washington Supreme Court Justice Charles Smith. Under his leadership, Franklin’s mock trial team was the one of the most inning teams in the YMCA mock trial competition. As of 2000, the year Nagel retired after a 34-career, the high school had placed first four years in a row and advanced to the national mock trial competition twice.
Before he became a teacher, Nagel thought he wanted to be an attorney. While attending the University of Washington School of Law, he wandered into the School of Education at Miller Hall. “I said, ‘That’s what I should be doing,” ‘ Nagel told The Times in 1997. “I’ve never regretted that.”
The Seattle School District knew they had a gifted teacher in their ranks. In 1994, Nagel was awarded the Golden Apple Award, which recognizes excellence in teaching.
His insistence on hard work and practice became Nagel’s trademark. Before any student could participate in mock trial, they had to complete the Law and Society class, where they learned the legal principles for court cases on many controversial social issues, such as abortion and physician-assisted suicide.
“His kids cheer and stomp at mock trials just like they do at football games,” attorney Doug McBroom said in a 1995 Times article. McBroom’s daughter, Maurin, was a Nagel student and ultimately pursued law as a career.
“Rick Nagel is there to develop minds, sure,” McBroom said. “But like any coach, he’s also out there to win.”