Hard work and determination paid off for John Adams Middle School students participating on the mock trial team finishing in the top 12 of 52 teams, in a recent County-wide competition sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF).
Santa Monica High School students also fared well, finishing in the top 16 of 94 teams competing. JAMS student Parker Lauer received an award as the defense attorney of the year, selected by the judges, which is quite an honor for a middle school student.
The John Adams Middle School (JAMS) mock trial program was started in 2009 by two JAMS parents who were senior trial attorneys with the Los Angeles County public defender’s office, Bill Sadler, who is now a Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner and Joel Koury, who runs a law firm handling complex criminal cases.
Koury continues to oversee the JAMS mock trial team with help from retired public defender and Los Angeles County Bar Association lawyer of the year, Stuart Glovin. Sadler and Koury both coach the Samohi team, along with Lisa Roth, an experienced deputy public defender, Chris Kanjo, a senior civil attorney that oversees the pretrial motion component of the competition and Glovin.
The JAMS team selection process begins each spring with teachers’ recommendations and an application process that is vetted by the administration. Team members are ultimately chosen by the coaches. The JAMS mock trial team has finished in the top four finalists out of 50 schools in recent years and regularly wins against private and parochial schools that have full time teachers and coaches.
Each team consists of 16 students that meet after school twice a week during the fall to prepare for competition against other Los Angeles schools by trying a mock criminal case. The case is heard in Los Angeles superior court downtown before a working judge who has been selected and organized by the CRF.
“I can’t thank Joel and Stuart enough for their hard work,” Steve Richardson, JAMS principal, said. “They have developed invaluable critical thinking skills in our kids and also provided a small glimpse into an exciting career option. And, of course, I am in awe of our students, their
commitment to this demanding task and their ability to shine in a high pressure situation. The mock trial program is a gift to our school and community.”
The Samohi mock trial selection process begins very early in the school year. All prospective mock trial team members are invited to attend a two day seminar held at school. During those two days, students learn issues dealing with criminal law and procedure, Constitutional law, trial advocacy, evidentiary rules including hearsay and its exceptions. Students take turns arguing hypothetical cases and are assessed for team placement.
“We are so proud of all our dedicated students who participate in mock trial,” Eva Mayoral, Samohi principal, said. “Our students have full class schedules, frequently are involved in music or other extracurricular activities and ASB, and still make the time and commitment to thrive in this amazing learning experience.”
Team roles include bailiff, court staff, testifying witnesses, prosecuting attorneys and defense attorneys. The competition inspires and teaches the students about constitutional rights, legal analysis, formulating an argument and public speaking.
“The competition is an amazing combination of moot court, debate and theater!” Yolanda Lewis, JAMS parent said.