‘Lawyers' keep courthouse hopping

February 21, 2002|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH, Staff Writer

"… Do You Know The Way To San Jose?"

They've been humming that tune a lot lately in the hallways of Holtville High School.

"They" are members of Holtville High's mock trial team participating in Imperial County's mock trial competition — and they've got their sights set on making it to the state finals to be held in San Jose on March 22-24.

Sponsored by the Imperial County Bar Association and the Imperial County Office of Education, this year's mock trial has been running weekly in the Imperial County Courthouse in El Centro.

Each Tuesday night for the last six weeks, the courthouse has teemed with "lawyers" from Central Union, Southwest, Imperial, Brawley, Holtville, Calexico and Vincent Memorial high schools, all matching wits and alternatively "prosecuting" and "defending" the mock case of the People vs. Price.


With all teams arguing the same case multiple times over the course of the competition, the students have honed their judicial skills to a point where a few local attorneys may be worrying about their day jobs.

Competing teams put in countless hours of preparation time for the trials and Holtville's teacher/coach Amy Wells estimates her team has put in well over 200 hours so far.

Tuesday night Well's students met Southwest High in round six of the competition, with Southwest in the prosecution seat and Holtville rising to the defense.

Pre-trial motions were dealt with swiftly by Imperial County Superior Court presiding Judge Juan Ulloa and the trial swung into action. Real life lawyers sat in the back row of the jury box, scoring each team member on their performance.

While arguably not on par with famed American orator Clarence Darrow, both teams argued their case with a tenacity and verve usually reserved for their real-life counterparts.

Keeping a firm hand on his court, Ulloa kept the trial moving briskly and, at the end of closing arguments, found for the defense.

Those scoring lawyers in the back row of the jury box also found for the defense, awarding Holtville 51.63 points to Southwest's 48.56.

That gives Holtville six straight wins and so next Tuesday night they go up against Central Union in the final of the series.

Other winners Tuesday night were Central Union and Brawley.

The final trial will be held at Brunner's Restaurant on Imperial Avenue in El Centro Tuesday and the event is open to the public. Starting time is 6 p.m. and, barring any prolonged legal maneuvering by the trial lawyers, the evening should close around 8:30 p.m.

>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or

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