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Countywide Student Mock Trial Competition to Begin Saturday

Eleven teams from eight public and private high schools throughout Santa Barbara County will compete in the 31st annual Mock Trial competition on Feb. 22 and March 1 at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.

The competition is designed to provide an educational experience for high school students in key concepts of the law, the Constitution, and the American legal system. Students prepare their cases with the help of teacher advisors and attorneys who volunteer as coaches.

As the students prepare to portray each of the principal characters of the case in the courtroom, they develop not only knowledge of the law but also skills in public speaking, critical thinking and interpersonal interaction.

Participating schools this year are Cabrillo, Carpinteria, Dos Pueblos, Laguna Blanca, Pioneer Valley, San Marcos, Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Valley high schools.

All 11 teams will present both prosecution and defense arguments in People v. Concha, a case developed by the Constitutional Rights Foundation for this year’s statewide competition. The case presents issues of second-degree murder and possession for sale of a controlled substance (amphetamine in the form of prescription Adderall). The pretrial issue centers on the Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure.

After two rounds of competition this Saturday, four teams will advance to the semifinals and finals on the following Saturday, March 1. On both days, the first round of competition will begin at 9 a.m. and the second at 1 p.m. The public is welcome to observe.

The local winner will represent Santa Barbara County at the state Mock Trial competition March 21-23 in San Jose. The winner of the state contest will then compete for the national championship.

The Mock Trial competition is sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Education Office and the Constitutional Rights Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping youth become more informed, active and responsible citizens. The local coordinator is Josefina Martinez, a legal secretary in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

Superior Court Judge Brian Hill, who has been involved with the Mock Trial competition for 10 years, is coordinating the efforts of the judges and lawyers who volunteer to serve as scorers and presiding judges hearing the case.

Judges for the first day of competition, in addition to Hill, will be Santa Barbara County Superior Court judges Thomas Anderle, Donna Geck, Patricia Kelly, Kay Kuns and retired judge George Eskin. Participating local attorneys will be Stephen Amerikaner, Justin Greene, Kathy Graham, Michael Hanley, Thomas Hinshaw, Susan McCollum and Danielle DeSmeth.

Anderle, Geck and Kuns, along with court Commissioner Pauline Maxwell, will judge the semifinals. Hill and Amerikaner will judge the finals.

— Dave Bemis is the communications director for the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

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