Lowell High School Wins San Francisco County Mock Trial Competition

Samantha Akwei, Director of Diversity and Pipeline Education Programs


For the 2018-2019 season, eight teams competed in the annual San Francisco County Mock Trial Competition. Altogether, more than eighty students participated, representing the following high schools: Raoul Wallenberg Traditional High School, Thurgood Marshall Academic High School, Abraham Lincoln High School, Balboa High School, Phillip and Sala Burton High School, Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of The Arts, and Lowell High School. Coached by attorney coaches, students received hands-on experience trying a case from both the prosecution and defense side.

As one of the Justice & Diversity Center’s diversity pipeline programs, the San Francisco County Mock Trial program targets underserved and underrepresented high school students at San Francisco’s public high schools, providing them an opportunity develop critical life skills and exposure to courtroom procedures and argumentation.

Competition rounds were held at the San Francisco Superior Court on January 29, January 31, February 5, and February 7. This year’s two top teams—School of the Arts and Lowell High School—competed against each other in the All-Star Championship Round on February 21  at the United States District Court, with Judge William H. Orrick presiding. Congratulations to the winning team from Lowell High School!  Lowell High School will go on to represent San Francisco in this year’s state finals, which take place March 22-24 in Sacramento.

From left, Mock Trial Committee members Christopher Fernandes, Marie Ma, Judge William Orrick, and Lauren M. Charneski, at the All-Star Championship Round.

Volunteer Cliff Kuehn, Kanbury, shared his experience scoring a competition round, saying, “Impressive. That’s what these high school students were. Being able to observe them as a volunteer scorer was a great way to shake up the typical work day and to learn a great deal about trial tactics.”

Speaking to the passion students exhibited, Angelika Ryan, Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, shared, “As a mom of two teens, the best part about participating as a Scoring Judge for me was to see how passionate the students are about people’s rights to a fair trial and their appreciation for our judicial system. They took their job very seriously and showed exceptional skills and some serious preparation. Great job, Lincoln High!”

Even though, as a corporate attorney, Demetria Vong-Spillan, Bank of America, initially hesitated to volunteer for the courtroom competition, she found the experience eye-opening: “I was so very impressed with the quality of the teams and their knowledge and enthusiasm. As for corporate lawyers, they should not be afraid of volunteering either as a scorer or even a presiding judge. It helped me to know that the facts, case law and grounds for objection were a closed universe, so actual courtroom knowledge (though preferable) was not an absolute necessity”.

Huge thanks to each team’s attorney coach: Rebecca Bers, Lance Cheng, Cliff Yin, Amanda Osowski, Lisa Hathaway, Michael Ungar, Jessica Dabiri, Nida Vidutis, Adrian Canzoneri, Carolee Anne Hoover and supporting peers who worked with students multiple nights per week to ensure they were ready and confident in presenting their arguments.

Special thank you to all volunteer judges and attorneys that took the time to score the competition: Alecia Cotton, Angelika Ryan, Annette Faraglia, Brendan Conroy, Carol Kocivar, BASF Board Member Carolyn Lee, JDC Board Member Catherine Ongiri, Charis Redmond, Cliff Kuehn, Crista Welch, Darya Landa, David Lucero, JDC Board Member Demetria Vong- Spillian, Dominic Campodonico, Douglas Dexter, Elizabeth Franklin, Erin Lapeyrolerie, George Borges, JDC Board Member Gonzalo Martinez, Jean Elias Xavier, Jenai St. Hill, John Sinclair, Jonathan Andrew Werlang, BASF Past President Judge Jeffrey Ross, Judge Joe Quinn, Judge Richard C. Darwin, Judge William Orrick, K. Abdul Mahid, Kathleen Brown, Barristers Club President-Elect Kelly Matayoshi, Kim Savage, Laura Seegal, Liku Madoshi, M. Alieu Iscandari, Manuel Ugarte, Mariah Cooks, Matthew Irwin, BASF Past President Merri Baldwin, Michael Bracamontes, Michael Naranjo, BASF Past President Michael Tubach, Molly Alarcon, Natalie Dreyer, Paul Adams, Rae Raucci, Ray Manzo, Ryan C. Kirk, Salayha Ghoury, Sarah Souza, Susan M. Sulc, Susannah M, Ragab, Terry Norbury, Tita K. Bell, and Valerie Comenencia Ortiz.

To learn more about JDC’s Mock Trial program, contact Samantha Akwei at sakwei@sfbar.org.