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Episode

1

1. Boot Camp for Lawyers

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Air date: 

June 7, 2022

The 100-degree heat in San Antonio won't stop St. Mary's University coach AJ Bellido de Luna from drilling his team on the fundamentals. “We’re going to be the largest populated school for Latino law students. These students are here to make a difference,” he says. And for coach Laura Rose at the University of South Dakota, being midwest nice has no place in a mock trial tournament. She lays down the law; “You guys are engaged in a highly competitive law school sport.”


 

Learn more about the schools, programs and special guests:

St. Mary's University Law School

University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law

Preet Bharara

Trial Team Central

Follow us on Twitter @ClassActionPod and Instagram @ClassActionPod

Visit our show page for transcripts and more details about the series at ClassActionPod.com.

Follow host Katie Phang on Twitter @KatiePhang and Instagram @KatiePhang.

 

Transcript


Katie Phang (narration): Class Action is a production of iHeartRadio and Sound Argument.

Rhodes College Trial Team:

Blood makes the glass grow. Kill, kill, kill. Blood makes the glass grow. Kill, kill, Kill. Blood makes the glass grow. Kill, kill, kill! Murder on three, murder on three, one, two, three! Murder!

Karen Crawford:

Well, I just want to tell the team that, we're new to this, but we are true to this. Because you went through the competition and if you weren't any good at all, you wouldn't be here. We may not be the best, but we're good enough to get on this team. So, let's do what we got to do. The whole goal after this is when you go into the courtroom, there's somebody depending on you to advocate for them. So, let's learn it now. Because their life could be on their line. Their finances could be on their line. Their family could be on their line. This is fun. This is great. But we have to look out for our clients. We don't even know who they are, but they're waiting for us. They're waiting for us.

<group cheers>

Announcer.

Our first team with six wins, with a CS of 16-½ and PD of 39, team 1216.

Dillard University Trial Team:

<cheers>

Katie Phang (host):

You're listening to the sounds of the next generation of American lawyers.

Caitlin Douglas:

Oh, Lord Jesus.

Katie Phang (host):

This is Class Action, a year long journey inside the hyper-competitive world of law school mock trial. We found three schools with amazing stories to tell, starting with St. Mary's University in San Antonio, where we follow one team on their dramatic trip to the top.

Jasmin Olguin:

We got beat up bad, until the point we're like, oh, it can't get any worse. Until it did. And then it did again. And then we were just like, you know what? Let's do this, we know what we need to fix. We got this, let's believe in ourselves and it's been good.

Katie Phang (host):

The University of South Dakota, where a new coach is turning around a program with students who are guilty of being too nice in the courtroom.

Dylan Ramstad-Skoyles:

The reports of this fighter, that there was blood everywhere, that everybody was bleeding. Why isn't there blood in the front passenger seat? Why isn't the victim's blood other places in the car?

Katie Phang (host):

And from deep in the heart of Brooklyn, an all-female team from Brooklyn Law fights the Ivy league champions.

Ellie Sands:

What just happened?

Kathrine Boyko:

Anjani you got the best opening statement!

Ellie Sands:

We just all tackled her to the ground and we're crying and screaming and so happy.

Katie Phang (host):

And to get an idea of the future of mock trial, we meet students from the undergraduate pre-law program at Dillard University. It's a team that's been forced to come together after Hurricane Ida lays waste to their campus.

Lajeanne Shelton:

This sport will humble you so quick, in the best way possible. It will really let you know; you need to buckle down and do what you have to do. It will really show you your potential. And it will also show you the places that you lack.

Katie Phang (host):

I'm Katie Phang, this is Class Action.

[music; mid-temp hip-hop positive triumphant groove]

Some people say jury trials, they're going away and there's plenty of evidence to support that. Personally, I think it's more than a shame, I think it's a crisis, a crisis for our democracy. Because if you've ever had to go trial and you've had a lousy trial lawyer, it's a real crisis for you, but there may be hope on the horizon.

Jasmin Olguin:

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a lawyer, just always wanted to do that, and it was kind of like law or nothing. I'm sure it could be good at something else, but this is my heart.

Matt Skinner:

I would say what appeals to me is the overarching justice system. And the fact that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but in society, that is not the case. In society is if you see a news report that so, and so was involved in a robbery, they did it. They did the robbery and I think that's unfair.

Amaya Ronczyk:

Okay. Here's one paragraph I can read, that same day I signed up for something called mock trial, thinking I would learn a few things about speaking effectively, I began sitting in the back of practices and watching the student lawyers argue their cases. My coaches didn't let that fly for too long. They insisted I lead strategy discussions and present every side of the case until I knew the facts of the story like it were my own.

Anjani Shah:

I have brown skin. I am Indian. I am not well represented in a courtroom setting, typically. I'm not who you see on a courtroom drama. For example, the other day I was talking to my friend and I was like, yeah, I did this moot court thing. And he said, oh, like in those courtroom dramas, do you watch them for inspiration? And I honestly, I said, no, because those people don't look like me. They don't have my style. They're white males generally. And for the most part, like, I'm building this myself, whatever comes out in a courtroom is because I built that persona.

Jasmin Olguin:

Every occupation's important in its own way. But I feel like in this type, especially criminal law, you're with somebody at the worst time of their life.

Amaya Ronczyk:

Every inch of my body felt uncomfortable to the point where I felt like quitting. But something about the sport made me keep coming back. I trained my mind and my tongue so substantially that the courtroom became the place where I felt the most comfortable. I learned that being a litigator isn't about the objections you make or how smart you sound. It's about your body language, the way your voice bends and the words you use. Most importantly, it's about the way you connect with people and the truth you're able to uncover. It's about the stories you tell.

Katie Phang (host):

This is episode one, Boot Camp for Lawyers.

<church bells ring>

AJ Bellido de Luna:

You all ready for me?

Announcer:

And now introducing, Assistant Dean AJ Bellido de Luna.

<crowd cheers and applauds>

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Oh my God. Stand up, stand up. Stand up. No, stand up, stand up, stand up, stand up! Pound on the table. Pound on the table. Oh my God. Oh my God. Woo. I'm the Dean of advocacy. So, believe it or not, we already did some advocacy here today. None of you wanted to stand up on whoop, whoop and pound on the table. But I got you to do that. That to me is the world of advocacy. Getting people to do something that they don't want to do on their own. For me, it's in the courtroom. I want the judge to do what I want the judge to do. I want the jury to do what I want the jury to do. And I need to train you to do what I do. That's my world. Close your eyes for a second.

Last night, you thought about your first day in law school. There was a picture in your head. How many of you imagined yourself in front of a jury or a judge making an argument? It's okay to dream. And here we're going to help you fulfill that dream, for each and every one of you that want it. Some of you are here because something happened in your life. Some of you have been wronged, or a family member has been wronged. Some of you have been victims, and that's why you're here, because you want to make a difference. It's just a small number of people that can control our liberty to make sure that it is maintained.

You have a unique responsibility. We're doing really important stuff here, and I need you to keep going. The national trial team, we practice going to trial. As a member of the national trial team before you graduate, you will have no less than 70 trials under your belt, practicing in front of judges and law practitioners. I invite you to be a member of the national trial team. Your success depends on each other. Put your arm around each other, take care of each other and good luck and law school.

<applause. Cheers>

Incoming 1Ls, did you eat breakfast?

Student:

Yeah, we have.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

I was going to say, get some breakfast tacos.

Katie Phang (host):

St. Mary's University sits on a flat piece of land in the west side of San Antonio.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

So give you a lay of the land here. Raba is the original law school. Now it's just offices.

Katie Phang (host):

St. Mary's is the first Catholic university in Texas, founded by the brothers of the Society of Mary in 1852.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

That's the law school library. That's the administration building, this is the main classroom building.

Katie Phang (host):

Just seven years after Texas became a state.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

So, you have the rest of the university, but we are right here in our own little corner. When you take a look around, what's going to set us apart when you go to these other schools, our student population has a huge Hispanic, Latino population. We're probably going to be the largest populated school for Latino law students, which is really important to us that we have that opportunity that other schools don't have. It's fantastic.

Jasmin Olguin:

[Spanish 00:10:57]. Thank you, mama.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

So our school has an oath that every student takes when they first come in, you take a bunch of oaths as a lawyer. So we figure we might as well start one here.

Announcer:

All in unison, say your names and follow me. I --

Dean Patricia Roberts:

The things that the students are pledging to honesty, morality, integrity, trustworthiness, honor. These are the things that I expect and we demand from all of our students, but we want them to make that commitment from their first day on campus and saying this pledge does just that.

Announcer:

The diligence study law, always actively and honest --

Dean Patricia Roberts:

So I'm looking at that pledge, I have it on a bulletin board above my desk. I, Patricia Roberts do solemnly pledge that I will engage in the diligent study of law, always acting in an honest, moral and professional manner. I will be guided by the spirit of hospitality, collaboration, mutual support and scholarship, which are the ideals of a Marianists university. And I will be trustworthy, honorable and professional in all aspects of my life.

Student crowd:

Be trustworthy, honorable, and professional.

Announcer:

In all aspects of my life.

Student crowd:

In all aspects of my life.

Announcer:

Congratulations to you. Thank you so much.

Katie Phang (host):

So do you go by AJ Bellido de Luna? Or are you just AJ Bellido? What's-

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Oh no, never Bellido, never de Luna, never Luna, never de. Believe it or not, some people use that. The last name is Bellido de Luna it's a double L. So you had the right accent-

Katie Phang (host):

[Spanish 00:13:18].

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Cubano.

Katie Phang (host):

No.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

[Spanish 00:13:21] In 1962-

Katie Phang (host):

[Spanish 00:13:29].

AJ Bellido de Luna:

[Spanish 00:13:31] in California.

Katie Phang (host):

Ah, okay. As soon as I heard about this particular podcast, I law geeked out trial ad was a big part of my law school experience. It was instrumental in leading me to not go to big law and to go to the grind of big law, and I went to be a prosecutor. I attribute that love and that pat passion for trial and advocacy, which like true trial advocacy because of the mock trials and the litigation skills program. So yes, so you and I are like-minded when it comes to this. There is this old saying I'm going to butcher it, but I do like to live by this kind of old adage, it was a Judy Garland quote about, the best thing is to basically be yourself. That being said, though, if you could build the perfect trial team student member, what would that trial team member be?

AJ Bellido de Luna:

I never thought about that, to be honest. And I think the reason why I've never thought about that is because I truly believe that I am not trying to make somebody into something. More so what I want is I want to meet the students where they are and to help build their skills and their abilities so that they can be the best lawyer they can possibly be.

Katie Phang (host):

Earning a coveted spot on the trial team at St. Mary's is not automatic.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Hey, 3Ls come here. 3Ls.

Katie Phang (host):

Tryouts are held in the spring for second- and third-year law student only. And just to get this out of the way, second year law students, they're called 2Ls. Third year students they're known as 3Ls.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Okay. Remember how nervous you guys were. This is like their passage into here. We're here to help them, do not give them advanced lessons. There are two people here that are here on a look see, the first one is-

Katie Phang (host):

In early August, the 2Ls enroll in a trial advocacy class taught by AJ, and after five o'clock they brave the heat for an intensive one-week boot camp. Where they're going to be drilled on everything from how to stand, where to stand, how to talk when to shut up, and all of the bed rock procedures operating inside of a courtroom.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Hey, what are you doing out here?

Student:

I'm helping.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Oh, good for you.

Student:

I'm going to be a team player.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Oh, look at you. Always a team player.

Student:

I grew up playing team sports, it's in my nature.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

I got in trouble for talking too long. The Dean told me to shut up.

Emily Parker:

Happy you can make it today.

Katie Phang (host):

Emily Parker is one of a handful of 3Ls who are earning extra credit for coaching at the bootcamp.

Emily Parker:

Our boot camp, which is basically a crash course on evidence, on the trial procedure, cross examinations. And just getting comfortable with learning at a fast pace, but also just the very basic rules for how a trial operates and what you need to know and the nuts and bolts. So then when they start their trial advocacy skills class in the fall, they'll be ready to go.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Hey, welcome to the first day. Here's what I want you to do. Unless you're Andy, Emily or Jess, I want you to go down there, I'm going to go address them. And I want you to work with them. And as soon as you believe somebody is ready for the test, they could come up to me or Deb, we're going to be at the top of the steps. They'll be at the bottom of the steps. They'll recite. They'll be allowed in. If they don't pass, we're going to send them back, you guys need to them and work with them. Have them recite it for you again. All right, let's go address them and get them to work.

Abby Efron:

My name's Abby, I don't want to speak for anyone else. But when he said boot camp, all I was imagining is, in the Texas weather, like out in the grass, doing laps and yelling the rules of the evidence. So anything was better than that.

Mariela Encinas:

Hi, I'm Mariela Encinas I was a bit intimidated, but definitely just from tryouts, there was still that level of scariness, not really knowing, what his personality was, how he was going to approach this whole thing

AJ Bellido de Luna:

A couple minutes. Let’s get to work.

Student:

It's Jared's birthday today, if you want-

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Oh my God. Jared's birthday. How old are you?

Jared Hall:

23.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

He's 23. Wow. Happy birthday.

Jared Hall:

Thank you.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

That's awesome. Did you bring cake?

Jared Hall:

I didn't, I was hoping you would.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

I believe that you have to bring cake when it's your birthday. Chocolate with chocolate frosting, you all need to know the rules. All right. Get to work. See you in a couple minutes.

Genesis Salinas:

A declarant is a person who makes a statement and hearsay is a statement that the declarant makes while not testifying in the current trial or hearing. And the party offers it into evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.

Deb Junek:

The rule number for hearsay. What's the rule number?

Genesis Salinas:

Oh 801.

Deb Junek:

And what's the rule number for relevance?

Genesis Salinas:

401, I'm sorry.

Deb Junek:

No, that's right. That's fine. No, you're fine. You're in.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

So in order to make phase two of the team, they had to memorize, I don't know, like 12 rules of evidence. They were given two hours to write down these rules, word for word. They were graded. You had to get an 80% or better on the test in order to stay on the team. So they've already memorized them for writing. When now they have to come in and give it to me verbally.

Hailey Nikkels:

What is the definition of relevance?

Mariela Encinas:

Evidence is relevant, if A, it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence and B the fact of consequence and determinative action.

Hailey Nikkels:

I love it. Okay, what is the definition of hearsay?

Mariela Encinas:

Hearsay is a statement other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.

Hailey Nikkels:

Go! Good job. What is the definition of relevance?

Vanessa Skillman:

Evidence is relevant, if it has any tendency to make the fact more less-

Katie Phang (host):

Why, for those people that are listening and wondering and scratch in their head, there's dozens of rules of evidence in the federal rules of evidence.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

That's right.

Katie Phang (host):

Why those specifically, and, if I'm able to recite it back to you, why is that some type of threshold success for me to be able to get my foot on the door, to even be considered, to be on the St. Mary's team?

AJ Bellido de Luna:

It's a little bit of effort to memorize that. So they're looking up at you and they have to recite these two rules to walk past me, to come up the stairs and walk past me. So there's an elevation that happens, there's a feeling inside it's part psychological. There's a whole lot of reasons for it, but it's all part of that process of if you don't care, if you're not willing to do just this little bit, I don't have time for you.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Hey, state your name for the record.

Cole Davila:

It's Cole Davilla.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

All right, Cole, what is the definition of hearsay?

Cole Davila:

Hearsay. Hearsay is a statement other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing offered evidence for the truth of the matter asserted.

Cole Davila: This is my first year on the trial team. I did moot court prior to this. So this kind of activity, it's very difficult to just really jump into because you got to know a lot of basic tenets of law that we've kind of only just touched on.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Three years ago, I was in your English class and I got B. I was involved in a car accident today, is my English class B relevant?

Cole Davila:

No, it is not.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Why not?

Cole Davila:

Because it has no bearing on the fact at hand or the action which is car accident.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Welcome aboard Cole.

Hailey Nikkels:

Okay. Find a second person, it looks like Jasmine is available.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

State your name for the record.

Karen Crawford:

My name is Karen Crawford.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

All right, Ms. Crawford. You and I are walking down the street, we just had a cup of coffee. All of a sudden we hear crash and someone yells out, holy cow, that guy went through a red light, is that hearsay?

Karen Crawford:

The person who said it? No, because he saw it with his eyes.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Is it an out of court statement?

Karen Crawford:

It's out of court.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Is it being offered for the truth?

Karen Crawford:

Not at that moment.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Go back.

Karen Crawford:

Hanging on the street.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Go back.

Karen Crawford:

Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.

Hailey Nikkels:

Okay. Karen, let's do it.

Student:

You're getting tripped up on hearsay.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

As you go through this process, I really want you to think about it this way. The rules of evidence are not to keep evidence out. The rules of evidence are to guide you on how you bring evidence in. It tells you how to get it in. If you look at it that way, it becomes a lot easier than it's this barrier. It's not a barrier, it's a welcoming mat. We're going to have a really, really busy week and we're going to be out here for most of it. I brought a cooler. Andy brought the ice, drank often drink a lot, stay hydrated. We should hit 102 tomorrow.

Leigh Ann Greenberg:

Offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Is this statement made out of court?

Karen Crawford:

Yes. The statement is made out of court, it's on the street.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

So then that statement is...

Karen Crawford:

Hearsay.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Because it is being offered...

Speaker 3:

To prove the truth of the matter asserted.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

So therefore it is...

Karen Crawford:

Hearsay.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Thank you. Come on in. Is that Everybody's?

Hailey Nikkels:

That's it.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Awesome. All right, come on in. Everybody. Let's get to work. Y'all made it. That was really easy. Wasn't it? Wasn't that easy? Give yourselves applause. Come on. <group applause> Now, you know the definitions, now you need to learn how to use them. Our first assignment is to get to know each other. Team up with somebody. Noone's going to ask a single question. When I say ones go for three minutes without stopping, I need you to tell a story about yourself to the other person. The person may not ask you a single question. You will just tell the story about you. I hope to God you came here with a piece of paper and a pencil, because while the other person is talking, you're taking notes. And you may not stop talking until I say stop. Let's get this table combined with this table, and that table combined with that table.

Student:

You need one over here.

Jared Hall:

Today, I'm going to tell you a story about how my house burned down. True story, from when I was seven. One night I went to sleep, it was a Sunday night. We didn't have school the next day, so my older brother was awake. And he awoke to a bang, glass crashing everywhere. He thought somebody-

AJ Bellido de Luna:

I used to teach at Maryland. I used to do this when I was at Maryland. And I know that at Maryland, I would teach something one time and I was done with it. It was over. I didn't have to do it again, but that's not where I am.

Raven Pena:

And I learned in addition to that, like whatever we say could really get us in jail, didn't matter what we were saying.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

I'm not knocking my kids; I'm just saying that they need a different teacher. They need me to be a different teacher.

Genesis Salinas:

30 seconds later, a jellyfish runner on my back. So I tried to take off a jellyfish-

AJ Bellido de Luna:

I'm not getting kids that even know what trial advocacy is, or some of them may have had an experience in high school. But they weren't on a national champion high school team.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Stop talking. Stop laughing. No, I'm just kidding. Leave everything behind. Just bring your chair and put them in this box. So when you come up here, I want you to say your name and the person you're introducing and tell us about that person. I'll take volunteers. So yeah. I love that. Let's get it over with. <applause> Who you are, who you're introducing, tell us their story. Hey, can someone take notes/ take notes of these stories?

Mariela Encinas:

I'll go first. Yeah. So hi, my name is Mariela Encinas and this was my partner, Raven Pena. And she told me the story of why law school, which I'm sure all of us have been asked before. So she went ahead and started off with how she was concerned for people. She had a concern in her heart for people specifically...

Mariela Encinas: I just moved here for law school. So it was a little rough, my first year. I won't lie, moving, I've never lived away from family. So I have no lawyers in the family, but I was a legal secretary and a paralegal prior to coming to law school. Law school was always the plan, just kind of took a little while getting there.

Mariela Encinas:

So she went ahead and started to do a lot of activist work. She became an activist, but she quickly learned that the FBI would get involved in a lot of things. And she learned the whole culture of security and how any little thing that she said, or her friend said ultimately was tracked and ultimately could lead to a lot... I

Mariela Encinas:

I didn't want to be the behind-the-scenes person. Everything that staff does is so important, but I want to be the advocate in the courtroom. And it was just through watching those other advocates that I was just like, yeah, that's what I need to do. My specific interest is in Special Victims Unit, sex crimes, crimes against children, domestic violence. That's where I really found a passion for helping the victims.

Mariela Encinas: And even though her road took different law school was always kind of the second option, and that's where she's at now.

<applause>

Preet Bharara:

There's a lot of power in a legal degree.

Katie Phang (host):

I asked my good friend Preet Bharara the former US attorney for the legendary Southern District of New York to join us on this journey.

Preet Bharara:

Individuals have power, generally they have their voice, they can protest. They can run for office. There's lots of things you can do. But I think there has been an appreciation as our democracy in my view has been under attack from a lot of different places over the last number of years. That's not a bad thing to have a law degree. And have the privilege of access to a court, to readdress grievances, and equalize the playing field for people who don't have access to justice.

<church bells rings>

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Is that six o'clock?

Hailey Nikkels:

Yeah, 601.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Let's everyone take a moment to reflect as the St. Mary's bell's ring. How long do they go?

Katie Phang (host):

The students pack up and head for their cars. AJ sits down at an old picnic table with a couple of coaches, Deb Junek and Misty Deatherage.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

The 2Ls in their presentations, was there anyone there that stood out to you?

Misty Deatherage:

The very first one, it's hard to go first, but she knocked it out of the park.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Why did she impressions-

Misty Deatherage:

It was very animated. Her speech was animated. It had motion. It had tone and variance. It was good.

Deb Junek:

And it was organized. It made sense. We have several that need to, we're going to have them sit on their hands. We have a lot of hand movement.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Are you shocked that the deer in the headlights look with about two thirds of them?

Deb Junek:

A little. I don't remember that from last year.

Misty Deatherage:

Year. My concern is, is that a COVID thing? We're back in person, meeting people in person again, is it a holdover from having done everything last year on Zoom and that type of thing?

AJ Bellido de Luna:

This is their first time live, this class, they've never been live. That's a really good observation. So we should ease them in a little bit, rather than hitting them hard. I was stand by hitting them hard tomorrow, but no.

Deb Junek:

You're going to be easy on them?

AJ Bellido de Luna:

No.

Misty Deatherage:

AJ doesn't do easy.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

You know better, but maybe easy for AJ, no...

[music; driving percussive, mid-tempo]

Katie Phang (host):

To get the bigger picture of the mock trial scene, I reached out to Joe Lester. When Joe's not overseeing the trial ad program at American University, he runs the go-to website called Trial Team Central.

Joe Lester:

Trial Team Central, we keep track of all the law school trial competitions, the results. We've grown, it was first just who won. And now it's, who won and who's playing.

Katie Phang (host):

And we also talked with Joe's colleague, Adam Shlahet from Fordham university. Adam's created this ranking system to measure the top mock trial programs across the country.

Adam Shlahet:

You get three points, if you win a competition. Two points, if you come in second. And one point, if you make the semifinals. So then I just started allocating points and counting them up.

Katie Phang (host):

So Adam and Joe, I'm the new kid on the block, but I have had the most amazing ride getting to know these coaches and some of the competitors. So I've met some pretty spectacular kids. They have reaffirmed my belief that the children are going to save the world because they are so smart and so self-aware. And I would like to think having been a trial ad geek myself in law school, that being a part of these teams has been a huge part of it.

Adam Shlahet:

Yeah. One of the other critiques that we hear, especially from people who aren't trial lawyers, is that there are fewer and fewer trials happening in the country. The jury trial is vanishing. So why is this so important? And I think that because the jury trial is becoming more rare, that makes it more important that the students get the training in law school. Because the days of the young lawyer trying a 100 cases before they're 30, it doesn't happen. It just does not happen, especially at big firms and high stakes litigation. I do some training for law firms and these are folks who've been at the law firm for many, many, many, many years and they've never even been close to a trial.

Joe Lester:

If you ever watch a baseball game and you watch someone throw the ball from third base to first base, most people can't even throw a ball that far, it's a long way and they do it like it's no big deal. And I think they think of trial work and the practice of law as something that's just easy and no big deal. And that's where the trial training that we give gives these students, such a leg up on their competition, on their classmates, because it is not something you can just walk in and do. It is not monkey see, monkey do, I can mimic it and I can take care of it. It takes a lot of training and understanding to know exactly what you're doing and how to do it, or you'll never be able to hit a curve ball.

Adam Shlahet:

So they need this kind of training because they don't have the luxury of learning on the backs of their clients. Because at the end of the day, trials are still happening. Even if it's to a lesser degree, they are still happening and that's the cloud looming over all litigation. And if you take away that ability, then you're really losing a major tactical advantage.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

So you preface what it is that you're trying to do. You mark it, you show it, you ask to approach, they validate its existence. You publish. That's kind of the gist of the way this works. Now you all do have a document...

Katie Phang (host):

Let's be frank, AJ, you want to create the St. Mary's Law national team that's going to be competitively good. And you talk about that pressure cooker of these students. They've got their academic rigor and their academic demands. I think it's really relevant because a lot of criticism about law school has been what's the real-world practical benefit of going to law school. What are you learning in the classroom versus maybe being on one of these trial teams? It is competitive to get on the team, I presume it's competitive to stay on the team.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

It's very competitive to get on the team. It's very competitive to stay on the team. The pressure is high when you get on the team and a lot of people don't make it. They withdraw on their own or they withdraw after a conversation. My number one goal is not to win championships. It is not. Don't get me wrong, I really love winning. I'm very competitive. If we were to break out a checker board right now, I'm going to play and play and play and play until I figure out how to beat you.

Katie Phang (host):

I like that you're already going, knowing that I'm beating you at the beginning.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

There's no doubt about that, but you will get angry at me because I will make you keep going until I win, until I figure out what you're doing and I am not. So I want to impart that competitive spirit on my students, but it is not, not my goal. I grew up really, really poor, Katie. I mean, really poor. I had parents who left Cuba to come here to this country. They left on one of the Freedom boats, like many other Cubans that came to this country, fleeing a communist Cuba, a Fidel Castro rule. And they came here with nothing, cloth on their backs. You don't know it by list listening to me because you don't hear me as a Latino.

Katie Phang (host):

Oh, but I heard it right there, Latino.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

I have seen how some people are treated versus other people. And I've been poor as an adult and I've worked through it until I got to this stage in my life where I'm not poor. I'm not rich, but I'm not poor. What I know is this. Is that there are a lot of people out there who are not getting the representation that they need. And I see day in and day out how people do not represent people correctly. They ask dumb questions. They ask questions that forward or advance the theory of the case for the other side, rather than their side.

<birds, cicadas, and soft wind>

Jared Hall:

I come from a town of about 3000 people, everything I've done in my life, people say, well, where is that from? Had somebody tell me this week that I sound like cornbread, whatever that means. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. But, that's my mentality, my whole life. My dad's not a lawyer or a doctor. My dad's a farmer. And the thing is for me, I'm out to prove to the world that I can do it and I'm going to do it.

Karen Crawford:

Hi. My name is Karen Fraser Crawford and the first day was quite intimidating, very intimidating. I had studied those things for weeks and it seems like it just blanked out.

Maria Jaimes:

Hello. I'm Maria Jaimes. So the first day I think we were all like maybe texting each other, a bunch of us, what's going to happen? What's going on? And we didn't know what to expect, honestly. And I remember telling some of our friends, I feel like throwing up. I don't know, I'm so nervous and we get here and it's like kind of a relief once the first day is over because we're like, okay, it's going to be hard, but we can do this.

Katie Phang (host):

A little over a thousand miles due north, another trial team, the university of South Dakota is lugging their law books back to campus.

Student:

Good morning.

Laura Rose:

Good morning. How you all doing this morning? How was your night, last night?

Student:

It was good.

Laura Rose:

We're downstairs in the courtroom today, let's go.

Ian:

Oh no, please.

Laura Rose:

Next time Ian, emails are great way to communicate when we're not going to be playing.

Ian:

The knowledge was not there prior to the email that should-

Laura Rose:

Got it. Mr. Petereit, Mr. Houdek, how are we doing?

Ian:

Let's go.

<students entering classroom, chatter>

Laura Rose:

Come on in. Oh, living the dream how you doing, sir? [crosstalk 00:39:35]. So these are the things that we're going to cover tonight. Things that you need to know about law school mock trial. We're going to talk briefly through preliminary matters, which is the first thing that you're going to say when you're doing one of these competitions, we're going to talk about the use of evidence at the competition, what you need to know. And what people on this side of the room already know. In six weeks, we take a fact pattern that would normally take two to three years to come to trial and we take to trial. And they're intense, some of our fact patterns were as long as 200 pages last year, some of them were as short as 65. The thing that you need to know most of all, you guys are engaged in a highly come competitive law school sport. We have gotten to the point through the work of the people who have been on trial team before you since I have been here, where we are now regularly getting invited and accepted to top tier competitions.

We are regularly competing against top 20 advocacy schools. I don't care that they're top 20 advocacy schools. They are not any better than any of you. They're not any smarter than any of you. They don't have any advantage over any of you other than the fact that they have a preexisting template. We're making all of that here together because we're building our team together. We're currently ranked number 90 in the country for trial advocacy. That means we are in the top half already. Our goal is to increase that ranking. How do we do that? By up and showing out at competitions right now. We're taking over with ethical zealous trial advocacy, and we're showing them that it doesn't matter what part of the country that you're from or how much money you've spent on all of your equipment we're coming for you. And it's not going to be fun for you when that happens. When you walk into that Zoom room, when you log in, I don't care if you're going against Baylor, I don't care if you're going against Temple. I don't care what school it is that you're competing against. It's four other law students. You have every potential to beat them just as much as they have the potential to be. You. It's just a question of who's going to do the work at the end of the day guys, that's really all there is to it.

Katie Phang (host):

So I come to you at the end of my one L year. I hear the siren song of working with coach Laura Rose, being on this amazing team. Walk me through what I should expect as that first semester 2L, in those beginning days of that semester with you, what's that going to look like for me?

Laura Rose:

The first thing that's going to happen is you're going to be absolutely terrified, because we're going to sit you down at bootcamp and we're going to tell you just how this goes. And in the course of that, you're going to have this moment of, oh my gosh, can I actually do this and law school on top of it? It's like drinking water through a fire hose on extra pressure, when you join to trial team on top of law school. We already know that law school is drinking through a fire hose. Now let's take it up to 11 by adding trial team on top of it. So you're going to get a faster, more intense evidence education than what's going on.

Laura Rose:

Questions about cross right now? Yes sir.

Matt Skinner:

Is it something that I learned in trial tech? I think it's important to focus on the negative space, that's there about what they didn't do versus what they did wrong.

Laura Rose:

And that's going to be particularly important when we talk about this fake environment of the trial team competition, right? Because you're going up against other law students. So they're going to be trying to play chess against you the entire time that you're ready to go. Your job is to be more fluent in their witness than they are. And then to not let them get away with an anything...

Laura Rose: Everybody likes to say that I'm a little carbon copy of dad with just enough of my mother thrown in to be interesting. My father is Charles Harris Rose III. He ran Stetson University’s Trial Law Advocacy program for 14 years. During that time, when he was in charge, they were always number one. Number one in the nation for trial ad. He is a giant of a personality and a titan within the industry. One of the people who now all of us who are currently in the job of coaching and teaching rely upon for his wisdom and what he did, but there is no understanding the impact that he had on the profession in particular, but he also casts a giant shadow.

Laura Rose: Listening to what they say is absolutely everything in cross examination. You have to be engaged, and in the moment. If you're not paying attention, number one, they may give you a nonverbal answer mm-hmm or mm-mm. You need to go back. That's a yes, that's a no, because otherwise it's not on the record. And then as you all know, one of the key jobs of the trial attorney is to protect the appellate record. You have to make sure that it's on there because otherwise you're robbing ourself of the argument. Technically you are not permitted to argue any of that in your closing argument because it's not on the record. But listening to what they say provides fertile ground for further cross examination and further ground for embarrassment, for them on those key facts. Toss out something that we haven't talked about yet, about cross examination. This is the part where the student interacts with the instructor, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Student:

You have to know their prior personal character.

Katie Phang (host):

Speak frankly with me, Laura, are you trying to build something that's going to exceed that legacy? Are you trying to outshine it? Are you trying to match it? Does that create any metrics for you internally for how you're trying to build and continue to grow and enhance the program you have at South Dakota?

Laura Rose:

I'm going to say no. And, and here's why I'm going to say no. I take inspiration from everything that my father has ever done. We have had a friendly competition going my entire life. When I took the SAT had to brag to him that I got a better SAT score than he did. When I took the LSAT, I had to do the same thing. It's that kind of way that he's nurtured my own inherent competitive spirit to allow me to grow into my own person. And now I'm at the point, where could I try and build what Dad built? Sure. Good advocacy is about looking at the facts of your case, looking at the law and coming up with a story that embraces a legal theme, a factual theme, and a moral theme that calls to justice and uses our trial system for what it's for, which is speaking truth to power. That's what I want to build.

I want to come back to, this is so important to American democracy that everywhere should have this level of education, and everywhere should get this level of exposure. And we have one lawyer for every 1200 citizens in our state. So we are a small Bar, which means that my students, when they graduate and they go out to practice, they need to be able to do a little bit of everything. They need to be a true Main Street lawyer in the way that the rest of the country, maybe doesn't necessarily have. The South Dakotan walking down the street who gets busted for a DUI or a disorderly conduct, deserves somebody who can go in and advocate at the same level as somebody who's in New York or who's in California or who's anywhere else. We need to start recognizing that there are things in the middle of the country that are incredibly valuable. There might be that time when some good Midwestern common sense approach to something is going to actually do you a lot of favors...

Laura Rose:

So with that, why don't we go ahead and start wrapping things up for tonight. I expect to see you all back here, bright and early tomorrow morning. Battle of the Experts people, can I talk to you up front real quick? Other than that y'all are good to go. Please take pizza with you.

Student 1: Whatever tournament are you guys are going, what's it called?

Student 2: Buffalo Niagara.

Student 1: It's not Battle of the Experts.

Preet Bharara:

Look, law is about rules. I believe in rules, but more important than rules, it is something that is based on principles and values. And those are values of equal justice and fairness of process and everything about that is fascinating to me. And I love the idea that it's also about truth finding. And all the mechanisms that you use, not only to get justice and fairness for people, but so the ultimate truth comes out. And I've always thought of it as a noble pursuit.

Tony Serra:

I tell the young lawyers, it's a fabulous calling, but you have to regard it as a calling.

Katie Phang (host):

Tony Serra is a self-described radical lawyer. He even took a vow of poverty in the 1960s. He's represented clients such as the Black Panthers and the Hells Angels. At 87, though, he is still practicing law and continues to send fear and loathing into the hearts of judges across the country.

Tony Serra:

It's a fabulous mission that you're going to embark on, but you have to regard it as a mission. If you regard it as a job and that you're going to serve the interest mostly of corporations, then you're feeding into the status quo. But is that really you? Is that really why you went to law school? Is that what you really want to do? Or do you want to improve our social and political securities?

<church bells ring>

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Okay. I'm getting started. We're getting started. How's everybody doing? I want to do two things real quick before we really get started. The first is that, while we're in law school, some things happen. It's just part of life. And we all need each other to get through of these hard times. Christian Ramone's father died. It was not expected, which is why he's not here right now. He's still going to try to be here tomorrow. They're burying his father today. So if you know him, and you if don't know him, maybe we can get a card, a note, a reach out to him to let him know that he's not alone. That other people are thinking of him in his time of need. And if it's within you, something that you do, maybe say a prayer for him and his family.

And there's no doubt that these kinds of events are going to happen to more of us. My mother passed away this year just a few months ago. And people rallied around me and we've had things that happen. We've had babies that were born and we rallied around each other for babies, the good stuff, and the bad stuff. As we start to get to know each other better and better, it'll become easier and easier to rally around. But sometimes things happen before we've had that gelling effect. So who did not see the video on cross examination? Now there's no direct happened yet, why are we going directly to a cross? We're going to work on directs, directs are harder. Crosses are easier. Why are crosses easier? Someone that watch the video, tell me why crosses are easier, Abby.

Abby Efron:

Because you're getting yes and no answers. Hopefully, yes, and you're telling the story.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Yeah. What do I call that?

Abby Efron:

The yes train.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

The Yes Train the yes, choo choo. That's the money train. You get someone to say, yes, that's the money train. That's what you want. You want a runaway witness so you can slap them around and get them on your yes. Train. How do we control the witness?

Abby Efron:

You control the questions you're asking them.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

And what kind of questions are we asking?

Student:

Leading question.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

And leading question is what?

Student:

One fact equal one question.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

What is it?

Student:

One fact equals one question.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

One fact, single fact questions. What is the one thing that I want to make sure that I get out of every witness that I cross-examined, every witness?

Students:

Story?

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Which story?

Students:

Your story.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

My story, which is my...

Students:

Client story.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Which is my theory of the case. How do I get the theory of my case through that witness? <bell chime>

Bring your chairs, leave your notes, leave your pens. Just yourselves. You can bring water. So I want my first chair here. Now, this is your first time through. And we expect you're going to make more mistakes than normal. It's okay. This is where you're allowed to make mistakes. This is our first step in cross examinations. You're going to make mistakes. We don't start yelling until the second time. The first time, it's easy.

Jared Hall:

Officer Centapalo, I want to take you back to when you were interviewing Bobby C.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Hey, where are you from?

Jared Hall:

North Carolina.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Where, in North Carolina?

Jared Hall:

Eastern North Carolina.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

What city?

Jared Hall:

Snow Hill.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

And what's in Snow Hill?

Jared Hall:

Nothing.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

There's nothing there.

Jared Hall:

Farms.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Farm. Are you on a farm right now?

Jared Hall:

No.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Where are you? What are we mimicking here?

Jared Hall:

Trial.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

And a trial is in what kind of room?

Jared Hall:

Courtroom.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Is that on a farm?

Jared Hall:

No.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

You're not on a farm, you got to get sick. Right now you're a little mad at me. Aren't you? Yeah, I'm glad that's what I was trying to get from you. I want you to be a little mad at me. I want you not on the farm right now. I love country. There's a place for country. Right now, we're not ready for you to be country. I need you to be in a courtroom. So get mad at me. Get in a courtroom, get your head right, ask him those questions.

Jared Hall:

Officer Centapalo, I want to take you back when you were interviewing Bobby C. Bobby C got an alert that his credit card was being used.

Student:

Yeah, that's right.

Jared Hall:

At the zip trip.

Student:

Yes, it was.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

So your country is an advantage, it's a true advantage that you have over people like me, people love hearing your voice. My voice is common, yours isn't. It can't be I'm on the farm. We got to find that balance where I get to be me, nut I don't want you to think like I'm on the farm. I earned my right to be here.

Jared Hall:

Yes, sir.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

All right. Cool. Thank you. All right. Get in the jury box.

Jared Hall:

Well, he made fun of my accent, which is funny now, but I felt like it was kind of a low blow at the time. Honestly, if he would've told me, my cross examination was terrible, I would've been like, okay, let me work on it. But yeah, he told me that and it pissed me off a little bit. I'm not going to lie, actually a lot, but it is true. He was like, yeah, I know you got chip on your shoulder. I can see it in your eyes. And that's true. And most of the time in my life, when I get off, when I get angry, I work harder. And that's what he was trying to bring out of me. And I respect him more now.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

I want you to write five questions, cross examining leading questions. This is your first foyer into a fact pattern. Don't go deep into the weeds. One fact, five questions. You have until 7:30.

Katie Phang (host):

Every year, AJ writes up a simple case packet for the students to argue. With this case in hand, they prepare for a short trial where they will have to do some of the most basic things. A trial lawyer must know how to do. Introduce evidence into the record, impeach a witness, refresh their memory and cross examine them. And that witness well, it'll be played to the hilt by AJ.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

So the story is about Bobby C and Veronica J, and it's a real story to a certain point. And then there's parts of it that aren't true. I used it back when I was at Maryland and then I adopted it to here so that it incorporates local town lore, including a bar that I love called Barbaro. So Bobby C and Veronica J were at a party. Veronica wanted to leave the party. She crossed over Martin Luther King Boulevard, near Camden pub on Baltimore Street in Baltimore City. Two men accost them with a gun, demands their property. Veronica gives her phone and her purse. Bobby gives his wallet. The robbers did not take Bobby's phone because he had an analog phone. The robbers laughed at him and they ran off. And Bobby C and Veronica J, they were so frightened by it that they never saw anyone.

That they couldn't tell you, the person was a man or a woman or white, black, Hispanic, Asian. They couldn't tell you anything about them. They were afraid they were frozen in time. The two police officers show up, Bobby gets a phone call from the bank, says your credit cards being used at a gas station. Police put them in the back of the car. They go to the gas station, Veronica yells that's them, that's the people that robbed me. Bobby C says, I don't know. I was too afraid. I don't know if it's them or it's not. Police officers go out, talk to the guys. And they were both arrested for the robbery.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Maybe those of you that were having a little bit of a hard time will agree with, rushing or skipping makes it hard. I make a mistake. So that's why you have to learn this, like the back of your hand. All right. I asked Genesis to do her five-question cross in front of all of you. There's a lesson here that we're going to learn. So there's an error and a recovery. I want you to hear the error so that you can learn from it. Not do it to yourselves. I'll explain it when it happens. We're good, Gensis?

Genesis Salinas:

Yes. You were called about a robbery?

John Sydow:

I was, yes.

Genesis Salinas:

It involved two victims.

John Sydow:

That's correct.

Genesis Salinas:

It did not mention the gender of the robbers.

John Sydow:

Correct?

Genesis Salinas:

It did not mention the gender of the robbers.

John Sydow:

That's correct.

Genesis Salinas:

You arrested two men at a gas station.

John Sydow:

Yes. It was two men.

Genesis Salinas:

So you arrested two men without having any underlying fact of the gender of the robbers.

John Sydow:

So, we had other evidence to suggest that the robbers were male particular the call, Bobby C he was able to identify eventually that the two men.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

That's good. You got, you got back what you wanted. Right? All right. First, I put her on a spot, so thank you Genesis for doing that. <applause> What was the question that she shouldn't have asked?

Cole Davila:

You arrested two men without any description.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Say the question again, Genesis.

Genesis Salinas:

So you arrested two men without having any underlying fact of the gender of the robbers.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Now that sounds like a yes or no question, doesn't it? Doesn't it? That's a yes or no question, but it's not. It's not a yes or no question. Say it again.

Genesis Salinas:

So you arrested two men without any underlying facts-

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Boom, without any underlying facts. What does that give the witness? That takes that yes or no question and creates it into an opportunity for a narrative. It's the one question too many. It's trying to get the witness to make the argument for you. When do we argue? When do we argue?

Student:

Close.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Close. We're arguing close. Is the witness going to argue for me? No, the witness is never on my side, on a cross examination. Not going to help me.

Genesis Salinas:

So this is Genesis. I told him I grew up in a Mexican household and there was no sugar coating ever. It was always very direct. I would come out of room and my mom would say that shirt looks ugly, go change. It was very that's wrong, fix it. So here with AJ, I really like that teaching style. That's how I grew up. I feel home. It doesn't hurt my feelings.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

So if you do it wrong, it's going to be an improper impeachment. Someone's going to object because you do it wrong. Now you got to go back and do it again. Now the judge is getting pissed off at you. The jury's getting pissed off at you. So that's why we're trying to be perfect. So that you don't have to do it again. So you don't get objected to on an improper or an imperfect impeachment. Showing up both counsel, you don't have to ask-

Tony Serra:

I always stand. I stand, when I cross examine, I stand when I address the court, I definitely stand when I address the jury. Your mind has to be so fast, so acute, so much recall that you develop what you're going to say right then. It's the spontaneity that creates the value. My God, I've seen lawyers read the cross examination. I've seen lawyers read their closing without passion. That's not the way to do it young lawyers. Stand up, be vociferous, be independent, be spontaneous, be creative, fight, be in their face.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

But you should know your path, the way that you're going to go. The two, three things that I want from this witness, you should know what those are. You all are going to court tomorrow. How ready are you going to be? You cannot pass this class, if you do not enter a piece of evidence, impeach the witness and refresh their memory. Those are the three things that you have to do. That's it. I want to hear your thinking, your thoughts, how you want to do it, how you put your case together. It has to be logical. You're going to have your documents so that you can get to them, that you can easily locate that document, so that you have a copy for you, a copy for the judge, a copy for the witness. You might have a spare copy in case coffee gets spilled on one by accident. It's curious to see whether or not you are prepared for court. So you should be ready for trial.

Katie Phang (host):

For the students, tonight will be a long one, pressing their suits, rehearsing in front of the mirror. For tomorrow, it’s judgement day.

AJ Bellido de Luna: I take it you know what a rabbit hole looks like.

Karen Crawford:

Yes, you can never get out.

AJ Bellido de Luna: And what’s in the bottom?

Karen Crawford:

Nothing.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Poop. Right? Rabbits live in their rabbit hole and they poop. When you go down a rabbit hole, you’re going down to a barrel of poop.

Katie Phang (host):

That’s next time on Class Action.

Class Action is a production of Sound Argument and iHeartRadio. Created, produced, written and edited by Kevin Huffman and Lisa Gray.

Sound design, editing and mixing by Lisa Gray, Evan Tyor and Taylor Chicoine

This episode had additional field production by Kristen Cabrera.

Executive producers are Taylor Chicoine and Katrina Norvell.

For more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your favorite shows.