February 4 kicked off our first day of competition for this year’s Mock Trial season. As one of the Justice & Diversity Center’s (JDC) diversity pipeline programs, the San Francisco County Mock Trial program provides public high school students an opportunity to be coached by volunteer attorneys to try a fictitious case. Students experience both defense and prosecution roles and practice their debate and public speaking skills. This year, the competition drew over 80 students from six San Francisco Public High Schools, including Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of The Arts (SOTA), Lincoln High School, Burton High School, Lowell High School, Balboa High School, and Thurgood Marshall Academic High School.
The competition rounds were held at the San Francisco Superior Court Civic Center courthouse. Each school was given a chance to compete against different schools for four rounds and the team that received the highest scores at the end went on to compete in an all-star round. In addition to coaching students, attorney volunteers also supported the program in scoring each round, assessing students’ ability to play their individual roles, apply the rule of law and work as a team. Volunteers provided feedback to students on their performance, boosting their confidence and providing momentum for the next round. Judges and attorneys also volunteered their time to preside over the mock trial, bringing a breadth of experiences and diversity to the bench.
District Judge William H. Orrick presided over the all-star round for the sixth year in a row, alongside a panel of selected attorneys. Congratulations to SOTA and Lowell High School for making it to the all-star round. While both teams put on stellar performances, Lowell High School which is made up of a junior and more senior team won, becoming the team to represent San Francisco at the regional competition in Los Angeles.
JDC is grateful to all of the volunteers that took part in this year’s competition. We encourage others to join in witnessing the future of the legal profession. An avid volunteer, JDC Board Member Demetria Vong-Spillan, Assistant General Counsel of Bank of America, shared her experience: “I was so thrilled to participate again in the 2020 Mock Trial as both a scorer and a presiding judge. The passion and preparation of these high school participants was amazing! My favorite part was when the “bailiff” stood up and sternly ordered a parent to stop using his cell phone to video the trial because it was against the court rules he had provided. I look forward to volunteering again next year!”
Thank you to all of our 2020 volunteers! Learn more about JDC’s mock trial program at www.sfbar.org/jdc/diversity/mock-trial.
About the author:
Samantha Akwei is the Director of BASF’s Diversity and Pipeline Education Programs