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County needs attorney volunteers for annual Mock Trial competition

Attorneys to act as judges, grading students on knowledge of the law

Practicing and retired attorneys are needed to support the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s 38th annual High School Mock Trial to act as scorers and judge aspiring young litigators on their knowledge and understanding of the law, with competition to begin the end of January.

This year, students from 17 schools throughout the county will meet to argue a pretrial motion, direct and cross examine witnesses, make objections, as well as present an opening statement and closing argument. The county is in need for attorneys to help grade the processions and pick a winner.

Teams will compete over seven days, with one winner being selected to represent Contra Costa County in the state competition in March.

Judges will make all decisions regarding the running of the trial including ruling on the pretrial argument, objections, competition violations and announcing a verdict to end the trial -- organizers want judges to know that the verdict is independent of which team won or lost the trial.

In addition to making a ruling, the role of judge is also to help students relax and enjoy the educational experience, according to the contests official handbook one of the chief ways to do that is by making comment as positive and constructive as possible.

A judge and attorney handbook, as well as simplified rules and an application with available dates, can be found online.

Starting later this month all Mock Trial rounds will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Jan. 29, 31 as well as Feb. 5, 7, 12, 14 and 19, with competition typically lasting from 5 to 8 p.m. Cases will be heard in the Bray Courthouse, 1020 Ward St., Martinez.

On the signup sheet, volunteers are asked to check all dates they are available to participate and use the comment field to indicate if they are available for all of the dates or only a specific number.

There is no deadline for applying, but the majority of seats needed to judge students are still open and the county has requested volunteers sign up as soon as possible. Organizers have also expressed a particular need for attorneys to sign up for the first four days of competition.

Last year, the team from San Ramon’s California High School was named the champion of the 37th annual competition, with Danville’s Monte Vista High School also claiming honors after placing fourth in the contest.

During that competition teams presented People v. Davidson, a criminal case involving first-degree murder and a pretrial argument on the Fourth Amendment.

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