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County High School Mock Trial Program Looking For A Few Good (And Real) Lawyers

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MARTINEZ, Calif., January 15, 2020—Bay Area soon-to-be, practicing, and retired law professionals are invited to provide assistance to their future brethren at the upcoming 39th Annual Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial Program, held on seven weekday early  evenings, during January and February, in the Martinez Court Rooms. Last year, close to 80 Bay Area practicing and retired attorneys and sworn judges, as well as third-year law students 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 case, People v. Motsumoto, is the trial of “Bailey Matsumoto,” the founder of a technology start-up that develops autonomous (self-driving) trucks. Bailey is charged with the murder of Bailey’s spouse, Taylor Matsumoto. This case will also feature a pre-trial argument on the Fourth Amendment.

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 16 Mock Trial teams competing, representing high schools throughout all of Contra Costa County.

Volunteers will score two competing schools that argue the case in their assigned court. Each night will begin with a 15-minute rules and regulations training, 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 welcomed 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 16 Contra Costa County high schools will be competing:
Acalanes High (Lafayette), Alhambra High (Martinez), California High (San Ramon), Campolindo High (Moraga), Carondelet High (Concord), De Anza High (Richmond), Deer Valley Law Academy (Antioch), Dougherty Valley High, El Cerrito High (El Cerrito), Hercules High (Hercules), Heritage High (Brentwood), Kennedy High (Richmond), Las Lomas High (Walnut Creek), Miramonte High (Orinda), Monte Vista High (Danville), Richmond High (Richmond).  

Schedule for 2020 Contra Costa County High School Mock Trials:

Preliminaries: January 28, 30; February 4, 6 – 5:00-8:00 p.m. (Eight competitions each night)

Quarterfinals: February 11, 5:00-8:00 p.m. (Four competitions)

Semifinals: February 13, 5:00-8:00 p.m. (Two competitions)

Final and Consolation: February 18, 5:00-8:00 p.m. (Two competitions) 

Mock Trial will be headquartered at the A.F. Bray Courthouse, 1020 Ward Street,in Martinez.

Interested volunteers can learn more by visiting the CCCOE’s Mock Trial web page, or contacting Jonathan Lance at (925) 942-3429. 

The two highest-scoring teams will advance to the finals, held on Tuesday, February 18. The finals winning team will then represent Contra Costa County at the California State Mock Trial competition, held in Los Angeles, Calif., March 20-22. The California state finalist team will then compete in the National Mock Trial Competition, held May 7-10, Evansville, Indiana.

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. 

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