For the last two years I have had the honor of coaching, along with two other attorneys, the Kennedy Mock Trial Team (KMTT). Kennedy High School consist of primarily Latino and African American students from a lower socioeconomic community. It is with great pride that I report that KMTT’s last season (2016-2017) proved to be the team’s best year in the last six years. We competed against Contra Costa County schools including substantially advantaged schools from Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga, and San Ramon. As a result of much hard work by all, our talented Kennedy students won numerous county awards and recognition this year including: 1st place for witness West; 2nd place for the defendant; 2nd place for witness Greyjoy; 3rd place for witness Blake; 3rd place for defense pretrial motion attorney; 4th place for defense attorney opening; and three Judge’s Honorable mentions. During our competition against the team (California High) that eventually got second place in the county, the trial judge gave us the winning score.
We are now seeking one additional Lawyer Assistant Coach for the 2017-2018 season. Latino and African American recently retired lawyers, lawyers with limited workloads, and those with flexible schedules with some trial experience would make an ideal assistant coach. However, we are interested in all candidates. With more talent and support, we hope to develop a lasting tradition of offering Kennedy students an opportunity to engage in this intellectually competitive enterprise and prove that our students can successfully compete against the best in something other than just sports.
Lawyer coaches benefit by joining a student and lawyer group that works closely together for over a semester, appreciates and supports one another, and eventually feels like a family. Coaches also appreciate being able to show less advantaged students that they can compete against the best. Experienced lawyers enjoy sharing their wisdom with high school students. Less experienced lawyers get a chance to focus on the preparation of a single case for a pretrial motion and every aspect of a trial. The work this team does is largely identical, although at a slower and more deliberative pace, to what lawyers do to prepare a case for trial.
Students benefit by working hard and being engaged in a competitive intellectual team enterprise. Students often grow tremendously in their self-confidence, public speaking ability, analytical skills, and develop a more self-assured and broadened sense of their abilities. Some begin taking school more seriously and become more ambitious about their future. All develop new friends and an enhanced appreciation for their fellow students from diverse backgrounds. This activity is also a solid resume item and looks great on a college application.
The KMTT first team meeting will be held during the 2nd week of school in September 2017. Thereafter, we will meet every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon from 3:20 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. The practice sessions usually start with a snack and socializing for the first 15 minutes. The team members work with a case packet, which includes among other things eight witness statements for a case which the team will prepare for trial (the last two years involved a murder case and a human trafficking case). Team members are eventually assigned a role for the trial which include: clerk and timekeeper, bailiff, unofficial time keeper, courtroom artist, witness, pretrial attorney (defense and prosecution), and trial attorney (defense and prosecution). The pretrial attorneys must study and memorize numerous cases and be prepared to argue their positions, respond to challenging questions from a judge, and deliver effective rebuttal arguments. The trial attorneys must deliver an opening statement and closing argument, direct and cross examine witnesses, and become experts on certain rules of evidence in order to effectively make and respond to objections during the witness examinations. The witnesses must become familiar with every detail of their statements and be prepared to not only respond to direct and cross examination on the stand but to do so with the appropriate emotion. Actual attorneys and judges score these competitions and often comment that they see no difference between the students’ performances and that of experienced attorneys in an actual trial.
If interested or you just have a few questions, please contact me as soon as possible. Also feel free to refer this matter to other possible lawyer coach candidates. I can be reached at my email or office/google voice phone.
- Dominique Pinkney
Lead KMTT Coach
Retired Public Defender
Staff Attorney, East Bay Children’s Law Office
510-878-9456 (Home Office)
510-686-3387 (google voice cell)