Mock trial team returns to state


Ingrid Lam and Joanne Kim

Cal High’s mock trial team will represent Contra Costa County in the California Mock Trial Finals this weekend after winning the county championship last month.

The mock trial team won the county mock trial championship for the fourth time in the past eight years, defeating Alhambra High School in the finals on Feb. 20 to go 7-0 in this year’s competition. 

They were announced the county champion on Feb. 22.

“It’s been really really great,” said sophomore Rishi Jammy, who serves as the team’s defendant, or the witness accused of a crime. “The team gets really close once county competitions start, and everyone is so supportive and nice.”

Cal will now compete this weekend against 33 other school throughout the state in the 37th annual California Mock Trial Finals in Orange County.

Cal’s team also went to state in 2011, 2014 and 2015. The team placed sixth  in 2011, 13th in 2014 and 12th in 2015.

The team, which is made up of 19 students, is coached by English teacher/newspaper adviser Brian Barr, and attornies Larry Lowe and Ken Mifsud. 

The team has been preparing for the competition since the beginning of the school year, meeting during A period in the first semester to prepare.

“Preparation involved a lot of weekend scrimmages and a lot of meeting up during A period for class to go over the material,” said co-captain Amir Udler, one of three returning seniors. 

In addition to the A period class, the team regularly met outside of school to ensure that they were ready to compete. 

“Since the class is only one semester, once it’s over we have to figure out how to meet on our own and practice,” said Jammy. “Usually we meet two to three times a week before and during competition season.”

The class teaches students basic trial skills as they apply the law to a hypothetical criminal case.

Students learn to conduct direct and cross examinations, present opening and closing statements, and learn the workings of the courtroom.

Junior Emily Moreira explained various parts of the work she had done as co-captain.

“Throughout the semester I help the entire class prepare the case,” Moreira said. “I also go through and teach the specifics of trial, such as the motions and objections, and review and edit everything.”

The county championship originally featured a field of 15 teams. The top eight teams advanced to quarterfginals were re-seeded based on their win-loss record in the four preliminary trials.

Cal’s team entered the quarterfinals as the second seed and beat No. 7 Kennedy and No. 3 Monte Vista before defeating No. 4 Alhambra in the finals.

The hypothetical case for this year’s competition is People v. Davidson, which is a case involving first degree murder.

“It goes to show how much more successful a team can be when we look out for each other,” said sophomore Megan Hoang, a first year defense attorney. “We work hard to perform well, of course, but we work our hardest for each other. Every single person is determined to not let anyone down.”

The hours of hard work paid off, as members of the team earned numerous individual awards alongside their first place team win at county.

Freshman Evelyn Lee won a Judges’ Choice Award, while sophomores Sarah Zhang and Liann Bielicki, and senior Noorain Patel earned Judges’ Choice honorable mentions. 

Freshman Audrey Zhang won the county’s courtroom sketch artist and will be joining the team at the state finals. Junior Isha Pandya earned an honorable mention as a sketch artist. 

Juniors Junhee Park and Vidhima Shetty earned honorable mention for their work as courtroom journalists.

Jammy, Patel, sophomore Farah Bakier, junior Kaitlyn Mifsud, freshman Kylie Bensalah, and senior Jessica Yuan were all recognized as outstanding witnesses, with Patel earning the highest witness score in the entire competition, a 19.4 out of 20. 

Bielicki also won the award for outstanding pretrial attorney, while Sarah Zhang, junior Shirin Afrakhteh, and junior Kristin Mifsud won outstanding direct examination awards.

Moreira, Hoang, and Afrakhteh all won outstanding cross examination awards.

“It’s not an easy task to undertake, but I can definitely tell you that preparing all of our examinatinons and speeches and figuring it all out were made worthwhile in county,” Udler said.

At the state finals, students have four trials over the course of two days, including three on Saturday. Based on the results from these four trials, the top two teams vie for the state championship Sunday morning.

The winning team will represent the state in the national competition in Reno. 

The team is optimistic that the hard work they have put in so far will continue to pay off. 

“At states this year, we just want to do the best we can, and see where that leads us,” Jammy said.