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Finding and Sharing Her Passion

October 31, 2017
By Deb Daley

She may have been the only girl cut from the freshmen basketball team; but it’s okay because she found her passion in journalism, which lead to her career as a judge. Now Francie Riedmann Weis ‘81 is also sharing her talents with other Mercy girls by being one of the coaches of Mercy’s Mock Trial Team.

“ It took me years to realize that being cut from that team was really a blessing. I ultimately majored in Communications in college and use my writing skills every day in my judicial opinions,” she added.

While at Mercy she was class president her senior year, editor of the newspaper junior year, editor of the yearbook her junior and senior year, and Outstanding Senior.

After graduation she went to college, first studying at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and then on to Kearney State College (now the University of Nebraska at Kearney). She worked as an assistant news director at a radio station in Kearney and then went on to paralegal school in Denver. Eventually she went to Creighton Law School and worked as an attorney for 20 years. She was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2012.

“ I spend my days reading trial transcripts, researching legal issues, and writing opinions. In the last few years I have judged mock trial competitions and was impressed with the skills involved. These students have the ability to analyze a problem, think on their feet, articulate a position, and respond to the unexpected,” she said.

As a result of those experiences and with her daughter, Emma, attending Mercy, she was inspired to start a Mock Trial Team at Mercy. She met with Brooks Humphreys, Social Studies Chair, over the Christmas holidays in 2016, continued discussions in early 2017, and held information meetings this fall. Twenty-four students expressed interest and she knew she would need additional help

“ I persuaded my nephew, Michael Mollner, to coach. His sister, Anne Stanley, is a Spanish teacher at Mercy. Mike had competed in Mock Trial at Creighton Prep and was on the Creighton Law School Mock Trial Team.

The girls had to start from scratch, not only reading through all the case materials but also trying to learn the ins and outs of trial work—the legal jargon, objections, rules of evidence, direct examinations, cross, opening statements, closing arguments, and more.

“We told the girls early on that we were not in it to win, rather to expose them to the legal field and help them develop some public speaking skills and build their confidence,” she said.

Mercy entered two Mock Trial Teams in the Nebraska State Bar Foundation’s Mock Trial Competition this year. The teams improved at every competition and one of the teams is competing in the regional quarter-finals—only eight teams advanced out of 25.

“ Every girl can do something better than she did when she started. It’s especially rewarding to watch them improve. The last night of the preliminary round the girls asked if we were doing this again next year. Hearing that desire to do it again was just as rewarding as having a team advance,” she said.

Francie encourages other alumnae to be involved because working with the girls is so rewarding and by volunteering you supplement the opportunities for the students.

“Coming back to Mercy made me realize what a welcoming place it is. It had been 30 plus years, but when I walked through the front doors, it felt just like it did when I was a student there, except I had to buzz to get in, “ she added.