Editor takes state as mock trial journalist


Isaac Oronsky

Californian editor in chief Vidhima Shetty was named the mock trial state champion courtroom journalist this year.

Emmy Burrus, Co Editor-in-Chief

Californian editor in chief  Vidhima Shetty recently earned the title as state champion courtroom journalist at the 38th annual Mock Trial State Finals.

Shetty, a senior, beat 21 other county champion courtroom journalists to claim her title at the State Finals, which was March 22-24 in Sacramento.

Shetty joined Cal’s mock trial team at the state finals after they successfully defended their title as county champions.

In February, Shetty was named Outstanding Courtroom Journalist for Contra Costa County for the second time in the past three years. She also won her sophomore year and went on to place third in the state in 2017.

As a junior she placed second in the county.

“[She is] very articulate, very positive, very engaged [in class],” said Donna Montague, Shetty’s freshmen and sophomore English teacher. “She works to excel.”

Each year in the mock trial competition, Shetty has had to challenge herself and look at different angles to get to where she is today.

“I think something that I did differently this year, which probably helped me to win, was really look at the witnesses and really talk about their states of mind,” Shetty said.

During a trial she attended as the courtroom journalist, Shetty has had to condense three hours of witness testimony and attorney arguments into a coherent story that summarized the trial. She had to include participant quotes and the judge’s verdict in her two-page story, which had to be submitted within less than five hours.

“To kind of take all [of what was happening in the courtroom] as a courtroom journalist and really quantify it into a well written story is always so much fun to do but also very stressful,” Shetty said.

Shetty will be attending Columbia University in the fall to pursue journalism. She has been a member of The Californian since here sophomore year. She was the paper’s features editor last year before being named editor in chif this year.

The mock trial team had to have just as strong of a work ethic as Shetty to have placed 17th out of 36 schools at the state finals this year. The team placed 25th last year.

After going a perfect 7-0 to claim their fifth Contra Costa County championship since 2011, the mock trial team won their first two trials at state and entered the third round as one of only nine undefeated schools.

Cal lost that third round trial by .5 percent to Sacramento County champion Elk Grove, which placed fifth at state. The team lost another close trial in the final round to Kern County champion Centennial High and finished 2-2 overall.

“We’re super proud of our accomplishment and I know that the team will continue to grow,” said senior co-captain Emily Moreira, who was the team’s lead defense attorney for the second straight year.

While students present a criminal case – this year the false report of an emergency and making criminal threats online – the judge and other attorneys grade students on a scale of 1-10 for their roles, which include attorneys, witnesses and courtroom staff, such as bailiff. 

Points are then added up and the team with the most points wins that trial. Teams with the most wins face of in the finals the last day of competition.

This year, Menlo School of Atherton defeated Shasta for the title. The winner represents California at the national finals later this month in Georgia.

Students said defending their county championship title this year and advancing to state states required the team to continuously push themselves.

“[Winning] definitely took a lot of practice and a lot of commitment to the team” said sophomore witness Brady Horton. “If we didn’t practice as much as we had I don’t think we would’ve gotten nearly as far as we did.”

It also helps that the team is so closely bonded and has coaches who encourage them.

“Our team always works really hard and we always lead with the knowledge that all our coaches give us,” senior witness Shivani Kharbanda said. 

Seeing how only six members of the 19-student team will be graduating, Cal should have a strong foundation in place going into next year.

“We’re leaving behind a team of winners, a team that is confident, a team that I know will be able to carry on our mock trial legacy,” Moreira said.