Volunteer Judges

Volunteer Judges


Photos courtesy of Juliet Jonas JD,. Prof. Jonas is a member of the  Core faculty JFKU Legal Studies Program

Did you know that in addition to everything they do as judges of the Superior Court, many of our local judges give freely of their time to help law students develop their skills?

John F. Kennedy University College of Law has a mock trial program that is the culmination of a 10-week course in Trial Advocacy. The class was designed to “give the students a realistic trial experience and to introduce them to the kind of preparation that is required to adequately represent a client in a contested proceeding,” said Audrey A. Smith JD, Associate Professor and member of the Core Faculty at JFKU College of Law. Each student has the opportunity to represent a client throughout all stages of a jury trial – from arguing motions in limine to receiving a verdict from the jury in open court.

Obviously, this kind of experience requires all kinds of help… and our local legal community and our local judges have been generous with their time and experience. It takes a concerted effort from many people to make the mock trial experience a success. In addition to a judge, each trial requires 20 volunteers to be jurors and witnesses. In addition, experienced trial attorneys from the local bar have taught sections of this course as adjunct professors: Madelyn J. Chaber, James J. Ficenec, Jonathan Lee, Catherine A.S. Lyons, Michael J. Ney, Ivor Samson, Gilbert Purcell, Wes Wagnon and Probal Young have also provided invaluable assistance to the program.

For the past ten years judges of the Contra Costa Superior Court have volunteered to preside over the JFKU students’ mock trials, giving them the rare opportunity to practice all stages of a jury trial in a real courtroom, before a real judge. At the conclusion of the trial the judges also provide individual feedback and practice tips to help students improve their advocacy skills.

Most recently, in August, The Hon. Lowell Richards, Hon. Lewis Davis and Hon. Catherine A.S. Lyons (who is a Commissioner with the San Francisco Superior Court), presided over the mock trials, but this was not their first time. Each of these judges has presided over JFKU Student Mock Trials on numerous occasions, and Commissioner Lowell Richards has volunteered to preside over a student mock trial every year for the past ten years. On several occasions Commissioner Richards has presided over two mock trials in one day!

Over the years, many members of the Contra Costa Superior Court Bench have given their time and their wisdom to the students… a big thank you goes out not only to this year’s volunteers, but to all the local judges who have helped out in the past, including: Hon. Barry Baskin, Hon. John W. Kennedy, Hon. Charles “Steve” Treat, Hon. Barry P. Goode, Hon. Charles ‘Ben’ Burch, Hon. Terri Mockler, Hon. Diana Becton, Hon. Steve K. Austin, Hon. Clare Maier and Hon. Terrye Davis. A special thanks goes to Hon. Jill Fannin and Hon. Claire Maier, who have been particularly helpful recruiting judges to preside over the mock trials.

A special thank you as well to Prof. Audrey Smith of JFKU College of Law, who helped write this piece and provided all of the pictures as well!