Thursday, January 6, 2011

Contra Costa County Mock Trial Program Looking for Attorneys to Assist

Miramonte High School, 2010 Mock Trial Winners

Bay Area practicing and retired attorneys are needed to provide assistance to their future brethren at the 30th Annual Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial Program, held in early evenings throughout the month of February and early March, at the Martinez Court Houses. (Complete listing of dates and times listed below.) Along with attorneys, 2nd- and 3rd-year law students are also welcome to participate with the scoring process. Last year, 100 Bay Area practicing and retired attorneys, law students, and sworn judges volunteered their time with Contra Costa County’s Mock Trials.

Coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), Mock Trial is an academic activity 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 case is a murder trial: People vs. Woodson.

Teams of high school students work with teachers and attorney 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. Real life 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 16 Contra Costa County high school Mock Trial teams competing.

Attorneys and law students, who volunteer with this program, will score the two competing schools that argue their cases in 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 scorers—between three to seven scorers in each courtroom. The Mock Trials’ scorers are made up of Bay Area district attorneys, public defenders, and private practice and corporate lawyers, as well as seasoned law students. A practicing judge or commissioner will preside over each trial, and also serves as one of the trial’s scorers.

The two highest-scoring teams will advance to the finals on Tuesday, March 1. The winning team will then represent Contra Costa County at the State Mock Trial competition in Riverside, Calif., March 25-27. The California state finalist team will then compete in the National Mock Trial Competition, held in Phoenix, Ariz., May 5-7.

Schedule for 2011 Contra Costa County High School Mock Trials
• Preliminaries Rounds: February 8, 10, 15, 17 (5:00-8:00 p.m.)
• Quarterfinals: February 22 (5:00-8:00 p.m.)
• Semifinals: February 24 (5:00-8:00 p.m.)
• Finals and Consolation: March 1 (5:00-8:00 p.m.)

Interested attorneys and 2nd- and-3rd-year law students can find out how to serve as Mock Trial scorers by contacting Jonathan Lance, at or (925) 942-3429. Participants may review and fill out this Attorney Volunteer Form, then e-mail back to Jonathan Lance.

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 35 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.