by Jonathan Lance,
Contra Costa County Office of Education
Bay Area soon-to-be, practicing, and retired law professionals are needed to provide assistance to their future brethren at the upcoming 33rd Annual Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial Program, held in the early evenings throughout the month of February, at the Martinez Court Houses. Last year, 100 Bay Area practicing and retired attorneys, law students, and sworn judges volunteered their time with the Mock Trials.
Coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), Mock Trial is an academic event provided for high school students. The hands-on educational program was created to help students acquire a working knowledge of our judicial system, develop analytical abilities and communication skills, and gain an understanding of their obligations and responsibilities as participating members of our society. This year’s trial is a murder case: People v. Concha.
"I encourage all law professionals to join us in serving as volunteer judges and attorney scorers," says Contra Costa County Presiding Judge Barry Goode. "Not only is it a real service to the students, but it will make you feel good. You will be impressed with the skill these young men and women demonstrate in our courtrooms. Every time I volunteer, I leave with a great sense of optimism about the next generation. It is such a treat to watch them at work." Judge Goode has been a long-time Mock Trial volunteer.
Teams of high school students work with teachers and volunteer coaches to prepare their version of the criminal case, from both the prosecution and defense perspectives. Students assume the roles of trial attorneys, pre-trial motion attorneys, witnesses, clerks, bailiffs, artists, and court journalists. Mock Trial judges and attorneys score their performance and provide immediate feedback. Winning teams advance through seven rounds of competition. The county’s champion advances to the State finals. This year, there will be 18 Contra Costa County high school Mock Trial teams competing.
Volunteers will score two competing schools that argue the cases in their assigned court. Each night, will begin with a 15-minute rules and regulations session, then the volunteers will go into their scheduled courtrooms to serve as Mock Trial judge and scorers. The Mock Trials’ scorers are made up of Bay Area deputy district attorneys and deputy public defenders, as well as public-sector, private-practice, and corporate lawyers. In addition, seasoned law students are also welcome to participate. A practicing or retired judge or commissioner will preside over each trial, and also serves as one of the trial’s scorers.
Teams from the following 18 Contra Costa County high schools will be competing:
Acalanes (Lafayette), Alhambra (Martinez), Antioch (Antioch), California (San Ramon), Campolindo (Moraga), Clayton Valley Charter (Concord), De Anza High (Richmond), Deer Valley Law Academy (Antioch), Dougherty Valley (San Ramon), El Cerrito (El Cerrito), Hercules Middle/High (Hercules), Heritage (Brentwood), Kennedy (Richmond), Las Lomas (Walnut Creek), Miramonte (Orinda), Monte Vista (Danville), Northgate (Walnut Creek), and Richmond (Richmond).
Schedule for 2014 Contra Costa County High School Mock Trials:
Preliminaries: February 4, 6, 11, 13, 5:00-7:30 p.m. (Nine competitions each night)
Quarterfinals: February 18, 5:00-7:30 p.m. (Four competitions)
Semifinals: February 20, 5:00-7:30 p.m. (Two competitions)
Final and Consolation: February 25, 5:00-7:30 p.m. (Two competitions)
Mock Trial will be headquartered at the A.F. Bray Courthouse, in Martinez.
Interested volunteers can learn more by visiting the CCCOE’s Mock Trial Web page, or contactingJonathan Lanceat (925) 942-3429.
The two highest-scoring teams will advance to the finals on Tuesday, February 25. The winning team will then represent Contra Costa County at the California State Mock Trial competition, held in San Jose, Calif., March 21-23. The California state finalist team will then compete in the National Mock Trial Competition, held in Madison, Wis., May 8-12.
In 1977, the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) introduced the concept of mock trials to the Los Angeles schools. In 1980, the program expanded to the state level. The California Mock Trial Program currently involves more than 36 counties and over 8,000 student participants from more than 400 teams. Approximately 1,500 attorney volunteers serve as team coaches and scorers, and 500 Municipal, Superior, and Appellate Court judges preside over the trials.