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Episode

7

7. Don’t Mess with Texas

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Air date: 

July 12, 2022

After a disappointing showing in the Battle of the Experts, the St. Mary's team is back together, determined to make a comeback. Mariela joins Andy, Jasmin and Cole, this time as an advocate. They pledge allegiance to Justice Sotomayor and Bad Bunny. The team is on the precipice of winning, only to face discrimination during a controversial semi-final round. Andy and her family celebrate El Grito.

Learn more about the schools, programs and special guests:

St. Mary's University Law School

Texas chapters of ABOTA

American Board of Trial Advocates

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@KatiePhangand Instagram@KatiePhang.

Bexar County DA | Twitter | Instagram

FRIDA Mexican Restaurant | Instagram

Hispanic National Bar Association

National Conference of Women's Bar Associations

National Association of Women Lawyers

San Antonio Bar Association

Bexar County Women’s Bar Association

San Antonio Young Lawyers Association


 

TRANSCRIPT


Katie Phang [narration]:

Class Action is a production of iHeartRadio and Sound Argument.


AJ Bellido de Luna:

This has happened more than once in my life, by the way. This has happened many times as growing up. My father got arrested in Dade County, Florida by the Sheriff's department because he didn't speak English well enough for the deputy to understand him, and he said that. He said the reason why he arrested my father was because he didn't understand him. That was the reason.

On the day that I graduated from law school, I was my class speaker. We had run out of time. We were supposed to go to a lunch. We never made it to the lunch. My kids hadn't eaten and now we have to go to the Convention Center for the university-wide graduation. So, we walked down to the Convention Center in Baltimore and we walked to a Burger King that was between the law school and there.

I remember my mother -- I could hear my mother at the counter trying to order and this woman at the counter, I could hear her say, "Hey, bitch, if you can't speak English, get out of my fucking line." The most important day of my life was my mother witnessing me graduating from law school, and on that day, I still had to hear that. That, and events like that, really drive me and you don't forget them. I think that's why I'm driven to come to a school like this, which is a school that has a lot of kids who are like me.

[St. Mary’s team at a restaurant, ordering food and drinks]

Student:

Hey, did you guys want [inaudible 00:01:30]

Student:

Oh yes.

Student:

Oh, do you want to do this?

Katie Phang [narration]:

We're back with our St. Mary's University team in San Antonio. Andy Vizcarra, Jasmin Olguin, Mariela Encinas, and Cole Davila. They are the first to admit they beat themselves in their last competition, but today is a new day.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Yeah, hi. This is AJ Bellido de Luna. I'm the assistant Dean of advocacy at St. Mary's University School of Law. So right now, we're at the pre-dinner. We want our team to be together for bonding and focus. It's where we come together, where you have a drink where you have a nice meal and you get an opportunity just bond.


Jasmin Olguin:

I'm feeling really good today. I feel like we got out our nerves during Battle of the Experts. We really saw what we need to improve on, and I think we're going to do, God willing, pretty good.

Cole Davila:

God willing.

Mariela Encinas:

Yes, for St. Mary's University.

Cole Davila:

Honestly, I can't really add to that. We're going to do good. We all know what we're doing, just got to do it.

Jasmin Olguin:

Cole, you never even get nervous.

Cole Davila:

I get nervous, I just don't show it. I know how to hide it.

Andy Vizcarra:

Look at him. You hear him? I can do that.

Cole Davila:

I got anxiety issues. I learned how to hide that long time ago.

Katie Phang [narration]:

This is Class Action and I'm Katie Phang. This is Episode Four, “Don't mess with Texas”

AJ Bellido de Luna:

So let me set this up. The Best in Texas competition is going to be all Texas schools. There's 10 law schools in the great state of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and St. Mary's are putting it together so that all the schools in Texas can compete. So what we did is we said, we want this group of four people who had this great experience at a well-run tournament, but a bad outcome. The difference though, is that we're going to have Mariela, instead of just playing a witness, she earned the right to pick up an advocate spot. So, she's going to be the closer on the plaintiff's side of the case and that's a lot of responsibility that we're giving a 2L in her first competition. But we want to give her that, we think she's earned it.


Mariela Encinas:

I am freaking out a little bit, just a little bit, but I'll be fine.

Kristen Cabrera:

Wait, why are you freaking out?

Mariela Encinas:

'Cause it's my first competition where I'm actually competing as an advocate.

Andy Vizcarra:

Mariela posted seven different memes of how stress she was last night.

Mariela Encinas:

I posted one.

Cole Davila:

Everyone's still on top of it. We bounced back from BOE and we're going well. They kept us together, thankfully. So we all know how each other works.

Andy Vizcarra:

This is a civil case. So Cole and I are the defense and Mariela and Jasmin are the plaintiffs. The case is pretty short and sweet, very, very short. My witness and the person that I'm crossing, it's two pages, double spaced of their statement. So it's really just how you're going to argue this stuff, there's not a whole lot of facts there. Just work with what you got.

[Jasmin and Andy practicing in their hotel room]

Jasmin Olguin:

Your Honor. We do not intend to go into damages during today's trial. We will not go into any emotional or monetary damages. Our burden today is to prove that Mr. Williams suffered a permanent injury. That being quadriplegia. For experts...

Jasmin Olguin:

Quadriplegia.

Andy Vizcarra:

What did I say?

Jasmin Olguin:

Quadriplegia. That's not a real thing.

Andy Vizcarra:

You need to remind me that. Okay, say it again?

Jasmin Olguin:

Quadriplegia.

Andy Vizcarra:

Quadriplegia. Not quadriplegia.

Andy Vizcarra:

Why didn't you tell me this four weeks ago?

Jasmin Olguin:

Because I thought you knew, I thought that's just the way you said it.

Andy Vizcarra:

Quadriplegia.

Jasmin Olguin:

Quadriplegia. Okay. Mr. Williams suffers from quadriplegia. Our expert today will explain what...

Andy Vizcarra:

Mr. Williams isn't a quadriplegic.

Jasmin Olguin:

You don't pronounce the I?

Andy Vizcarra:

No.

Jasmin Olguin:

Our expert witness today will explain what quadriplegia is and how Mr. Williams suffers.

Andy Vizcarra:

What is?

Jasmin Olguin:

What quadriplegia is and how Mr. Williams suffers from it.

Andy Vizcarra:

My name's Andy Vizcarra, you catch my mom on a day she's mad at me, she'll call me Andrea, and I'm a 3L here at St. Mary's and I'm trial team captain. Law school's a very competitive place full of very competitive people individually. So, take the pandemic out of it and you're already dealing with, how do you get people to put the team over themselves and their own personal ambitions? How do you get them to see that the team is more important than that, and if they thrive, I thrive and if I thrive, they thrive.

[St. Mary’s team practicing in their hotel room together, the night before the competition]

Andy Vizcarra:

Guys. We are practicing. We need to get through Cole's opening.

Cole Davila:

Your Honor, opposing counsel, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. May it please the court. Our circumstances determine our conditions. The decisions that we make at any given moment can change our lives for better or for worse. When things go bad for us, we try and look back at what happened, try and justify our actions, try and justify our decisions. But the fact is, hindsight's 20 20, and that is what is happening in today's case. Chris Williams, the plaintiff, is looking back at what happened, trying to explain things, trying to explain away his own actions that led to his injuries.

Brad Simon:

Great, great, great. What you're doing is really, really good. I want you to go back to where you said, and that's what's happening in today's case. So go back to that line.

Cole Davila:

Okay.

Brad Simon:

You say that next line that's what's happening in today's case [inaudible 00:07:28]

Cole Davila:

Okay.

Brad Simon:

Try that line again. That's what's happening in today's case pause, little bit softer. Chris Williams is trying to retell the story of what actually happened.

Cole Davila:

Okay.

Brad Simon:

So you're starting out that strong...

Katie Phang [narration]:

At this point in the season, the team has spent more time with each other than with their own families. They've developed a kind of sibling dynamic. Andy's the big bossy sister, Jasmin, the moody middle child. Mariela is the smart little sister and Cole, well, he's the serious brother.

Cole Davila:

I tend to be much more straightforward, head through the wall kind of thing, rather than being creative about it. Whereas Andy would be much more creative, much more artistic and so I've learned how to get in touch more with my personality and not hiding in it as much. Same thing with Jasmin, Jasmin is kind of, I think, a middle ground between me and Andy in terms of how outgoing we are. Just hanging around them has taught me how to show myself a bit more, whenever I've always been much more reserved and private.

Mariela Encinas:

I'm starting to notice that I'm picking up some of Andy's mannerisms just in life, just hanging out with her from so much. I'm really thankful for that opportunity just because I feel like it did help me in the courtroom. I definitely know I've come a long way. I felt a lot more comfortable in front of that witness stand doing my cross examination specifically than I did in the summer.

Jasmin Olguin:

Yeah. Tuesday, we had a practice and Andy was like, y'all need to be off paper for your directs and we actually could do it. I was like, okay, cool. We can do this, it's not crazy.

Andy Vizcarra:

I think the biggest thing that I've learned from both Cole and Jasmin, one was, I think I thought I knew how to lead before I even became captain and then you do, and then you're given this new team with these people that you've never worked with before and you're like, how do I do it? Do I do it like this? Am I hard? Am I mean? How do I get the outcome that I want? How do I be effective and pull us all together?

[Andy Vizcarra at the office of the law firm where she works]

Andy Vizcarra:

This is my desk which is a mess right now. You caught me in a moment. So, a lot of post-it notes, every kind of post-it note that you can imagine, I have it. Lots of different type of pens, lots of highlighters. Oh, we've got a fake little gavel. This is the firm that I've interned at this summer. It's the Rosenblatt Law firm here in San Antonio. And this is where everyone's hiding. I have the podcast.

Law firm staff:

Hi, we're everyone...

Andy Vizcarra:

This is Carrie and Leanna and Carrie, but not spelled the same way. And Melissa.

Kevin Huffman:

Wait a minute, while we have you all. How is Andy doing?

Law firm staff:

She's amazing. Personality.

Kevin Huffman:

That's it?

Andy Vizcarra:

They're under duress. They're like, what do we say?

Law firm staff:

From what I hear work wise, she's doing an amazing job, but then personality wise, we enjoy her every day. For sure. She's already done a deposition that she handled, prepared for and did the questioning. She does quite a bit of a lot of the discovery work and those sort of things... Research for the litigation team. So she's doing a good job.

Andy Vizcarra:

We're in the war room. This is one of my favorite rooms. So on the wall, we've got all different kinds of maps of Texas and the US, what used to be Mexico. So Texas slash the Northern part of Mexico. I love telling people fun facts about Texas because a lot of people don't know it. Texas has been under six different flags. First it was under Spanish, French, Mexican, let's see, Confederacy, it's Republic, and then the U.S. I think I'm a lot calmer here, which is weird. The weight is... Not that the weight at school isn't real, but here it's like these are real people, real cases, real money on the line. Real people with real stories and real problems.

Jennifer Beldon Rosenblatt:

Andy started for us... May?

Andy Vizcarra:

March.

Jennifer Beldon Rosenblatt:

March of this year...

Katie Phang [narration]:

Jennifer Beldon Rosenblatt is a partner at the firm and Andy's supervising attorney.

Jennifer Beldon Rosenblatt:

I wanted to offer her a job on the spot. It is very rare to find somebody with the composure to be able to think ahead to the next question, and to be able to catch your breath when somebody's attacking you. Andy has that ability. I came out of law school and went directly to being a prosecutor. There is something about prosecution that is different than any other field. We call it getting your courtroom legs. So I asked her, what's your plan? I want her to go work for the DA's office because I want her to have that experience, but I'm only going to let her go if she swears she's coming back, otherwise I'm going to make sure she doesn't get a job at any DA's office in the surrounding 200 square miles. I'll just apologize to her mom.

Andy Vizcarra:

She'll just have to move back in with you. She'd love that.

[13:00]

[Mexican band playing in background, Spanish language speaking of MC, attendees at San Antonio’s El Grito Mexican Independence Day ceremony]

Female Attendee:

Today is the Mexican Independence Day. We celebrate September 15th at night. We call it El Grito, because at 10 o'clock we shout. We scream out a phrase of “Viva Mexico” and... Which, I will. I'm actually the one that's going to do it later on tonight after the mariachis' leaves.

Male Attendee:

I think it's important to celebrate your heritage and your roots, where you come from and never forgetting the sacrifices that my parents specifically made to get us here to the United States to live a better life, and even though we're proud Americans at the same time, our heritage, we're proud of it as well, and I think that's what's very important about celebrating moments like this.

[band plays the U.S. national anthem, followed by applause]

[St. Mary’s coach AJ Bellido de Luna during class with law students]

AJ Bellido de Luna:

That is the technical correct way of doing it. Are you ready for the incorrect non-technical way to do it? Are you guys ready to handle that? Just say yes. What's your birthday?

AJ Bellido de Luna:

I didn't like getting food stamps. I didn't like getting government food. I didn't like being laughed at by others. We were poor. I got a full-time job working 60 hours a week at Mi Hermana restaurant for $1 an hour when I was 12 years old. All that entire $60 went to my house.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Doing it wrong. Silly, right? Silly in order to do it wrong, you have to be able to do it right? But what you don't want, is you don't want to be called out by a judge. As you progress, as you start practicing in front of judges, judges are going to know that you know how to do it. So what are they going to do? They're going to give you a little bit more leeway each time, because we want to get to the good stuff, okay? So I don't want you to leave here and think....

AJ Bellido de Luna:

You had asked me about my connection here. If we really take our time and teach people properly, then those people like me, and my family, the way that I grew up, we'd have better representation because there would be people out there that will be able to do it. So when I came here, to this school to visit it, when they were looking for the advocacy director and I took a look around and I saw what was here, it reminded me of home. It reminded me of my childhood.

[St. Mary’s coach AJ Bellido de Luna during video call with other mock trial coaches and tournament judges]

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Okay. I think I'm sharing screen now is that right? A head nod or two would be great. Thank you.

Katie Phang [narration]:

Inside his office at St. Mary's, coach AJ Bellido de Luna is doing double duty. He's keeping an eye on his team and running the tournament. Right before the round starts, AJ briefs the judges. This is important. The competition season, it's had some issues.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

We need to mention this and I hate mentioning it, but we need to and those are your subconscious biases against the competitors for race, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, none of that should play a role in any of the arguments or in your scoring. Be cognizant of what you are communicating and how you are communicating with students. So, three weeks ago, we were at a tournament and a judge said, I want to talk to the Black girl now. That's highly, highly inappropriate to bring out her race and to call a woman, a girl, not by her name. All of you have your name. All of our advocates are going to have their name. If you want to give comments to an advocate, call them by their name. You might want to say their role. I want to talk to the opener or the closer, but anything like that is highly inappropriate. Then we had another judge who said the glasses that you're wearing, make your eyes look so pretty. That's also inappropriate. The only comments that should be made to any of these advocates should be on their advocacy. That's it, nothing else. Now I will say, as leaders in our field, you might see something...

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Racism is not dead, it's alive and well. These are issues that these young ladies and others are going to have to deal with for their entire lives until racism dies in this country.

Katie Phang [narration]:

The Best of Texas round one.

[Competition via Zoom]

Bailiff:

If I could have all of the judges and competitors, please turn your cameras on so we can just do a quick conflict check, and witnesses too. Judges and competitors, does anyone look familiar?

Judge 1:

Not to me.

Judge 2:

Not to me either.

Bailiff:

Thank you. So I believe we can begin.

Katie Phang [narration]:

This is a civil trial. Chris Williams was a star athlete who went to a rock concert, was thrown to the ground by security staff and is now paralyzed from the neck down.

Cole Davila:

Your Honor, opposing counsel, ladies and gentlemen on the jury, may it please the court. Our circumstances determine our conditions. The decisions we make at any given moment in our lives forever alter the course of our life for better or for worse. When things go wrong for us, we try and look back through rose colored lenses to try and justify what happened to try and explain away the reasoning's and things that led to our current condition. We try and blame others for our wrongs, for our own negligence. That is what is going on today. That is what the plaintiffs are trying to do. Chris Williams, the plaintiff...

Katie Phang [narration]:

Later in the round, Andy grills the plaintiff, getting her to admit that she knew her actions had consequences.

Andy Vizcarra:

Alright, Ms. Williams, so you knew that getting into that mosh pit could jeopardize your lacrosse career, but you did it anyway and you didn't stop there. The second song to “More Cowbell” came on and something came over you. When that song came over you, you decided to jump on the group of strangers nearby.

Witness:

Yes.

Andy Vizcarra:

Now you don't know if you hurt these people, as you jumped on them?

Witness:

I'd crowd surfed before...

Andy Vizcarra:

We originally thought it was a plaintiff's case and then Cole and I really hit the defense pretty hard. The plaintiff's side is having a little bit more trouble than we thought they would.

Andy Vizcarra:

Hold on, AJ’s calling, hello?

AJ Bellido de Luna:

So look, all in all it was good round for us. You can fix that one little thing pretty easily. Little things that you guys are doing--

Andy Vizcarra:

I know.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Stop doing it if you want to win, win, win.

Andy Vizcarra:

Yeah.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Right? It's a little thing, but it means, these are trial lawyers, right? They want us to be that sharpness, right?

Andy Vizcarra:

Yeah.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

So let's get that sharpness in there.

Andy Vizcarra:

You're right.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but listen, that's okay, right? We put the jitters out on that one. That's fine. If we want to win, win, win, we cannot make those moves forward. Alright. So the screen screwed up on us, right?

[Andy Vizcarra outside FRIDA Restaurant in San Antonio]

Andy Vizcarra:

So we are at Frida Mexican Restaurant and Bars, the full name. This is my parents' restaurant that we are all super proud of. We opened during COVID because it was either open and lose money or stay closed and lose money. I'm still a server here when I'm not in school and not fully employed. They might laugh, but they will agree with me. I think I was the perfect kid, not perfect, kids mess up and stuff but I was a golden child. I never stepped out of line and if I stepped like half a toe out of line, it was right back in. I wasn't really a rule breaker. I don't know if it's a child of immigrants thing. There's a million questions about identity that I'm hyper aware of. That I go through my head all the time.

Am I too white? Should I be more Mexican? Wait, no, I am Mexican. I don't have to be more, anything. Senior year of college, I was having an identity crisis of, going back to Texas. I don't know why it got into my head that I needed to look more Mexican. So I dyed my hair dark brown, similar to my mom's hair color and I hated it. I chopped it off and I tried to wear more greens and color. If you get a chance to see my mom, she's this Brown woman with black wavy hair and she's got all these bracelets and she's always dressed in colorful things from head to toe, so I was just... Maybe I'm not embracing who I am. Maybe I need to do it and it just felt wrong and it was... Oh my God, am I... Do I hate my culture? No, no, no, no stop. It's an overthinking game. Always.

Kevin Huffman:

Let's just go in.

Andy Vizcarra:

Yes.

Kevin Huffman:

Alright, meet your dad.

Andy Vizcarra:

Yes.

Kevin Huffman:

What's your Dad's name?

Andy Vizcarra:

Elizandro.

Kevin Huffman:

Elizandro.

Andy Vizcarra:

Yes. Cool, cool. Cool. Okay. This is us. Oh, there's my dad. Hola, Papa. Cómo estás? [Spanish 00:23:11]

Elizandro Vizcarra:

Nice to meet you. [inaudible 00:23:16] Oh yeah. I know.

Kevin Huffman:

We’re going to follow you.

Elizandro Vizcarra:

This is the blue room. That one is the rose room, okay? The capacity is 350 people. It's 10,000 square feet.

Kevin Huffman:

Wow. It's beautiful.

Elizandro Vizcarra:

This is the front of the kitchen. [Spanish 00:23:41] The line, yeah. We have the prep team in the morning. So the rest of the team, they come at four o'clock. The thing with Mexico is depending on where you go, every state, they got a particular food. But, if you go to the state, every little town, they got... Even something special you never find it anywhere else.

Andy Vizcarra:

We have this uncle who he, not by blood, but he's from the Pacific coast. He's from Mazatlan. I've been everywhere in Mexico. Mexico has the most phenomenal food in the world, a hundred and 10 percent but I have never eaten agua chiles like the agua chiles that he makes because.... He's from the coast, he's from there. He's from this little town and his grandma taught it to make them a certain way. It's crazy.

Andy Vizcarra:

This is chocolate cake.

Elizandro Vizcarra:

Chocolate cake, for tonight.

Elizandro Vizcarra:

Well, I feel like I got my goal, with her... [Spanish 00:24:42]

Andy Vizcarra:

He said that it's like seeing my goal come true. My goal as a father has always been for her to be on her own two feet. To finally get her title as a lawyer, that's the end goal. That's it, that's the only thing I wanted as a father and that's the most important thing for parents everywhere I think, is to see your child through that.

Elizandro Vizcarra:

Not only the goal, but my dream. It's hard, in this world and this country or wherever you go, the kids finish the school. I got a lot of family in United States and most of them, the young people from my family, they don't finish school for some reason and it's important. I feel proud of that, but it is not easy. It is hard sometime, but... [Spanish 00:25:44]

Andy Vizcarra:

He said, I think you catch that I'm proud, in English, as we all are, but in America, if you work hard enough, you can do anything. Which is something that he's told me since I was a kid and he says that's what I tell my girls. If you work hard enough, you can do anything here. It's different over there. It’s not the same. You can work as hard as a dog there for years, your whole life and not get anything. That's the beauty of America. Sometimes the path isn't easy. I'm not saying it's easy. Sometimes it gets really, really hard, but you just stick to it. You stick to it until you get to where you're going and sometimes you don't know where you're going, but if you keep working hard, it'll become clear and you just have to have a lot of determination and a lot of hard work.

Elizandro Vizcarra:

[Spanish 00:26:36]

Andy Vizcarra:

He said, first of all yes, there's a lot of discrimination here in the U.S., but don't get me wrong, there's discrimination everywhere. But that being said, there is a lot here that I've experienced and so raising our girls, my wife as well as I, have tried to teach them not only to not be that way and to respect people and to be the opposite of those people that do discriminate against us. Also, at the same time to be very wary of those people because one thing is an insult, the other thing is that they could be very dangerous.

Katie Phang [narration]:

The scores come in. St. Mary's is going into the next round against Baylor.

Andy Vizcarra:

It's always us and Baylor in the end. Always. They're our arch nemesis.

Katie Phang [narration]:

With one win already under their belts, the team is feeling fresh. In the upcoming round, Jasmin and Mariela will argue for the plaintiff, while Andy and Cole will act as witnesses.

[St. Mary’s team in hotel room prepping for tournament]

Andy Vizcarra:

Do you know how to use the mics? Okay. Plug in, let's get everything ready. Remember all of the steps as impeachment. You made a statement, you were telling the truth, you were complete, you were accurate. You were truthful. I know y'all know all these things, but you know how we forget so we're running them through you.

Andy Vizcarra:

We need to break this curse of, even when we're really good and we get to semifinals, or even when we get to finals, you always lose to Baylor.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

If they could win this round, right? If they come out victory in this round, then it's leave your advocacy alone, let's talk about these little things and figure out why they're happening. Once you reach a certain standard, you can maintain that standard and we just haven't reached that standard yet. We're still growing. I don't know when it's going to happen, but it is happening for us. We are getting better and we'll continue to get better.

[at the home of the parents of Jasmin Olguin; dog bark]

[Spanish 00:28:50]

Mrs. Olguin:

Right there. Leave it right there (to dog). [Spanish 00:29:04]

Alfredo de la Garza:

[Spanish]

Mrs. Olguin:

[Spanish] Do you have a dog?

Alfredo de la Garza:

[Spanish]

Mrs. Olguin:

[Spanish] Okay.

[Best in Texas Competition round via Zoom]

Judge:

Are we ready for opening statements? Alright, please proceed.

Katie Phang [narration]:

In another room in San Antonio, this one a living room Jasmin's parents are glued to their computer screen watching their daughters opening.

Jasmin Olguin:

Good afternoon, your Honor. My name is Jasmin Olguin and I, along with my co-counsel Mariela Encinas represent the plaintiff, Mr. Chris Williams.

Mrs. Olguin:

Yes. Last time she do it real good too.

Mr. Olguin:

She's always been very motivated on this criminal thing since the third grade and she was asked, what she wanted to do as major? She said, I want to be a criminal lawyer.

Mrs. Olguin:

Always.

Mr. Olguin:

She has it in her blood, as far as being that career. As her parents, we're surprised and shocked that she wants something like that. I always thought she was going to be a professor at the university or something that.

Jasmin Olguin: [via Zoom]

Don't let them get you first. I didn't know that those were the words that Officer Lavell lived by. I didn't know that those were the words that Officer Lavell preached to the members of his own security team. I didn't know that when I went to Alden Pavilion that day.

Katie Phang [narration]:

The opening is innovative, powerful. It's written from the plaintiff's point of view. The judges imagine being Chris Williams, a victim of violence by security guards that left him paralyzed.

Jasmin Olguin:

They pick me up and they slam my head onto the pavement and I can just hear and feel the bones of my neck breaking and they pick me up one more time. I just feel my head drop and I can't feel my body. I can't feel anything. They dropped me into a puddle of mud and they walk away and the last thing I remember seeing are pink shirts with the word security on them. This is the first day as a quadriplegic. We will ask that you find the only just verdict to find the different...

Alfredo de la Garza:

What do you think?

Mrs. Olguin:

I'm real proud of mijita. She's a beautiful girl and I love her.

Mr. Olguin:

She's going to have a tough case. A tough case. Yes. She plays a very good role.

Katie Phang [narration]:

Then Mariela steps into the role of being an advocate for her first mock trial ever. She's cross examining a witness.

Mariela Encinas:

Now, Dr. Hatch, I want to talk to you about something that we can agree on. We can agree that Chris sustained his injuries on June 29th, 2019.

Witness:

Certainly.

Mariela Encinas:

And he sustained those injuries while being escorted out of the pavilion.

Witness:

Certainly. Yes.

Mariela Encinas:

Being escorted out by the security team at Alden Pavilion.

Witness:

Yes.

Mariela Encinas:

Now the injuries...

[Coach AJ watching the competition via Zoom in his hotel room]

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Solid, solid, she looks strong.

Mariela Encinas: [via Zoom]

The last people you remember being with the night of June 29th, 2019?

AJ Bellido de Luna:

She's been looking nervous in practice, right? But look at her, she looks like she's been here before.

Mariela Encinas: [via Zoom]

Thank you, Dr. Hatch. That one possible way of raising his head. That's consistent with Chris Williams version of the story.

Witness:

Well, the theoretical possibility. Yes.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

I see somebody who is blossoming right in front of our eyes.

Mariela Encinas:

They put his arms behind his back and they slammed his head, head first into the pavement and that is when Chris felt it. The bones in his neck break and he yelled at them, trying to tell them that they had hurt him, but they didn't care. They just kept going. Not until they felt they had enough, did they stop. At which point they lifted Chris up and his head fell forward. That's when Chris felt it, this body that he had trained, this body that was so full of life just minutes before, it went completely limp.

Judge 1: [via Zoom]

Okay. Mariela, direct of Chris Williams, I thought was great. I appreciated that you focused on what came out in cross and really came back and hammered that home with the redirect. Also, Mariela, I thought your final argument was terrific. The words I wrote are done was captivating, powerful, persuasive, effective. You had me just watching your every move on screen so I can tell that you put in the work, but you weren't reading it. You were actually delivering it and you were looking into your camera and you were really making me believe what you were selling me. So, I just wanted to commend you on that as well. So both of you ladies, good job for [inaudible 00:34:13] plaintiff as well. Alright. On the defense side real quick...

Mariela Encinas:

It was a huge adrenaline rush walking out of there. Then he called me Mike Tyson. I mean in a good way. As a coach, he doesn't lie to us. He doesn't sugarcoat a single thing. If we're bad, he's going to tell us we're bad, he's going to help us be better. Knowing that he said that I did well, I knew for sure that I had done well.

Katie Phang [narration]:

Back in the tab room, AJ is seeing the tournament results in real time.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Whoa, what are the odds of that? Baylor scored 93 points the first round, we scored 93 points the second round.

Kristen Cabrera:

Wow. Interesting.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

That is really interesting. St. Mary's took a ballot, which puts us at four, which still puts us in front of Baylor, which is nice. 86 plus 102. So they're guaranteed quarter final. They have six ballots. They're kicking butt.

[inside FRIDA restaurant with the St. Mary’s team]

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Ooh. There's short rib tacos and there's rib eye tacos. [inaudible 00:35:33]

Mariela Encinas:

We had dinner before we went on the second day and he's like, I want to talk for a good 15 minutes. Get business out of the way so we can have fun tonight.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

You, young lady were amazing today. Okay? I want you to know that I was extremely proud of you. [applause]

Mariela Encinas:

Thank you.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

It was your first close. It was your first direct. It was your first cross and you looked the part the entire time.

Mariela Encinas:

Thank you.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Alright? I need you to keep doing that. So we're in third place. How often do I tell you how we're doing?

Jasmin Olguin:

Never.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Never we're in third place. You all need to step up. She needs you. We're not expecting Mariela to be up here with you, but here's the thing. You weren't up here. Your advocacy is fantastic. The words that you're using, the delivery, all of that is fantastic. I wouldn't change a single word that you did today. What have I been complaining with you guys from BOE?

Andy Vizcarra:

The errors.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Unforced errors, right? You had fewer today, but you should have stomped those teams. So we're in third, we're in a good position, right? We are totally in control of our destiny. Win and we're in. Quarter finals is not good enough for you. It's not. Win and we are in, okay? We could be the two-seed tomorrow, which puts us in a great position to get into semifinals and then it's a new game. So, you’ve got to be hungry for it as a team, not as an individual, as a team.

Mariela Encinas:

So I had a lot of fun with my closing.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

You got to have fun. None of this is worth it if you're not having fun, okay? Let's eat, let's break bread. Let's have fun.

Katie Phang [narration]:

The next day, heading into the quarter finals, Jasmin and Mariela represent the plaintiff. Again. They're feeling loose. Confident. They're having fun.

[Jasmin and Mariela in hotel room, listening to Bad Bunny]

Jasmin Olguin:

I got to be strong to do this for the team. For all the women. For all the Mexicans out there. I got ya'll on this one. This is it. This is all the people who didn't believe in you. Looking flawless. I see you, defense attorney. Hey, what's up your Honor. My name is Jasmin. Call me Jazz. My co-counsel, Mariela. Great person. You know what I'm talking about. [deep breath] This is for Chris Williams. Chris Williams is in this courthouse and you are fighting for him. Yeah you are. Make your team proud. St. Mary's be out here, you're going to be in the semi's. This determines it, you feel me? I feel you girl.

[deep breaths]

Those are the deepest breaths I've ever taken in my life. Coach may be on here. Your mom might be on here. Boyfriend's on there. Mariela's dad's on there.

Mariela Encinas:

This one is for all the Mexicans and Bad Bunny.

Jasmin Olguin:

And Chris Williams. This is for the Mexicans, I'm not even lying to ya'll.

Mariela Encinas:

For the Mexicans, for all these people who got us here, allowed us to be in law school, allowed us to go on the court...

Jasmin Olguin:

Talking to you Sonia. This is for Sonia Sotomayor. Practice what you preach. This is it.

Katie Phang [narration]:

The quarter final. It's about to start. The court is assembling online.

[Best in Texas competition round begins, via Zoom, team in their hotel rooms]

Bailiff:

Thank you. What about the plaintiff?

Jasmin Olguin:

Hi bailiff. Sorry. All of plaintiff is here.

Bailiff:

Thank you for that clarification. As I placed in the chat and I made the announcement earlier, please change your name to read your role, whether you're plaintiff or defense, a dash, and then your full name.

Katie Phang [narration]:

Mariela calls her first witness played by Cole to the stand.

Mariela Encinas:

What happened at the point when you were slammed into the ground head first?

Cole Davila:

Well, I could feel and hear the bones in my neck breaking. I yelled at them to stop that they were breaking my neck, but they just kept on beating me up.

Mariela Encinas:

At what point were you injured?

Competitor:

He cannot testify as to when he was actually injured. He cannot diagnose himself your Honor.

Mariela Encinas:

Your Honor, may I be heard?

Judge:

You may.

Mariela Encinas:

Your Honor, he's testifying to his own experience. I think he would know when he was unable to stop walking and was unable to feel his body and that is the injury that we are here today about, is his quadriplegia.

Judge:

Your objection's overruled.

Mariela Encinas:

I'll repeat my question, Chris. At what point were you injured?

Cole Davila:

I was injured when the security guards of Alden Pavilion put my hands behind my back and slammed my head into the ground.

Mariela Encinas:

And Chris, when you got there prior...

AJ Bellido de Luna:

We're in a quarter final round and we're doing great. Everything seems to be going along just fine. I think we're the better team. I think we're performing better. Team's doing everything that I could possibly ask of them.

Katie Phang [narration]:

And then, this happens.

Bailiff:

Question for the plaintiff's team. Is there only one attorney?

Mariela Encinas:

No bailiff, there's two. We are switching out the names because we have one advocate room.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

I received the phone call saying hey, the judges are saying that you guys are cheating because you have one advocate playing all the roles. I said no, that isn't true. We have two advocates. We have two witnesses. We have two different people doing the two roles. So, at first when they said it, I won't say that I was incredulous at first when it was... I thought it was a joke. I thought it was someone was trying to be funny. But then, I got a second phone call and the judges were insisting that we had one person performing all of the advocate roles. I said, we have two different people up there.

One's tall. One's short. One's thin with a long face. One is a little heavier with a round face. One is wearing makeup. One's just wearing base. One is wearing a black suit. One is wearing a blue suit and I could see the different colors of the suits on the screen. One is wearing pearled earrings. The other one is wearing no earrings. They both have long hair, but one has it over their shoulder and the other one has it behind their back. So the only thing that's similar to them is that they're both Latinas. They're both brown skinned. That's the only thing that's similar to them. Other than that, it's two completely different people and you can't mix them up.

Bailiff:

So, you are Ms. Encinas?

Mariela Encinas:

Yes. Yes.

Bailiff:

And the other attorney is Ms... What is it?

Mariela Encinas:

Olguin.

Bailiff:

Olguin. Okay. Well Judge [inaudible 00:43:58] I am prepared whenever you are.

Jasmin Olguin: [to Mariela]

He thinks we're the same. You're on there.

Katie Phang [narration]:

The interruption is bizarre. It comes right before Mariela has to deliver a lengthy and complex closing argument for the prosecution. No one else has had to do this. Mariela. She fights through it.

Mariela Encinas:

Don't let them get you first. The words that Joe Levall lives by. The words that he preaches to his fellow security guards. The words spoken by the person who was supposed to keep concert goers safe the night of June 29th, 2019. Defense wants you to believe that Chris struggled that he was going crazy and resisting, but defense also implies that he could have sustained his injuries while crowd surfing or even slam dancing, but nobody else's stories aligned with that. Even their own expert and ours say that the injuries were sustained after he was crowd surfing and after he was slam dancing. For that reason, again, we asked that you find Alden Pavilion liable for the injuries that were sustained by Chris Williams on June 29th, 2019.

Bailiff:

Thank you. Now the judges will adjourn. Before you all remove yourselves from the room or before we adjourn rather, can we have the team for the plaintiff? We need to verify which one of you all did which portions of the trial. So can you...

Mariela Encinas:

Yes, your Honor. Oh, sorry, yes bailiff. So I, Mariela Encinas did the direct of Chris Williams as well as the cross of Dr. Hatch and the closing. My co-counsel Jasmin Olguin did the opening, the direct of Dr. Alvarez and then the cross of Joe Lavell.

Bailiff:

Thank you for that. [inaudible 00:46:19] would like to... If could you could please turn your cameras on and get ready to give you these teams [inaudible 00:46:26]

Mariela Encinas:

Can you turn the camera on?

Katie Phang [narration]:

With a few minutes to spare before the verdict, the team drives over to AJ's office.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

By then the results had come out, so I called them into the conference room and I told them... I think you could tell by looking at me and obviously, your fans out there don't see my face and the tears that are forming, it's real.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

We didn't advance.

Andy Vizcarra:

What?

AJ Bellido de Luna:

We did not advance. Sometimes you lose and you wonder if you left it on the floor or not. Did you leave it on the field? Or you know you didn't do your best. It's very upsetting to me, I can't imagine how you guys feel, because I know in my heart that you guys were not just the better advocates, but you were substantially better than the other team. But in this case, the same thing happened that happened to us in the first round. It went to a tiebreak and we lost in the tiebreak, which is a really hard pill to swallow. That angers me. I know it angers you. You can define that however you want to define it. I know how I'm defining it. Did that play a role in their final decision? I don't know, but it's really upsetting. I'm sorry. This isn't the first time in your life that's going to happen and it's not going to be the last times in your life that's going to happen. There's nothing I can do to make it better.

Jasmin Olguin:

So we lost that round?

AJ Bellido de Luna:

We lost that round two to one. You did. I'd like to tell you something different, but I got nothing more to tell you. There's literally nothing we can do about that. Nothing. Other than I'm sorry.

Katie Phang:

In the immediacy of that happening, not really knowing what was going on though. What were your thoughts?

Mariela Encinas:

Honestly, I think the part that hurts the most is probably the misidentification. I think they're so interconnected. The fact that they thought we were cheating because of the misidentification. But the misidentification hurt a little more. There's literally no way to train and prepare for that.

Katie Phang:

But then later on, when you found out that there was this... I'm beyond upset about it. I'm so impressed with how calm you are about this. But, Jasmin, in that moment later on, when you found out that there was this insinuation, if not outright accusation that you and Mariela had been cheating in this round, what was your reaction?

Jasmin Olguin:

Upset and hurt. I think I was really confused. I was in shock. Everyone else was pretty upset about it, but I couldn't cry right away because I'm... There's no way that just happened. That round, just, yeah.

Mariela Encinas:

Honestly, what I take away is it doesn't matter how hard I work, how much time or energy I put into something. Things like this will still cost me and it's a hard pill to swallow. It's something that you have to learn unfortunately, in a predominantly white field that it might affect you. This time around it was judges, when you're in practice, it might be juries. It might be the judge. It might be a juror. It might be opposing counsel. It might be someone, right? This is a hurdle that has to be jumped that not everybody's going to have to jump with you.

Katie Phang:

Jasmin, has that experience at Best in Texas with... Do you have a description of what you thought happened? I don't know, and you don't have to agree with me Jasmin, but it sounds like racism to me? It sounds like on a good day, some type of implicit bias maybe? I don't know, but has that affected you, Jasmin, in any way on your outlook, on just life? Not just on mock trial, but on life?

Jasmin Olguin:

It definitely has. It just makes me scared that that is ever going to affect me in the future when I'm representing a client. I don't want to go up there and do an open or close and people aren't listening to what I'm saying. What if we have the better case and they're instead going to look at me different, because the way I look. Maybe they're going to look at me as less and they're going to see oh, this other attorney's superior because the color of their skin and that is what scares me.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

We've now had three teams that are 100% Latino, so I'm proud of what we've done there, in increasing the diversity of the team. We still have room to grow. I'm here to train students to be lawyers and most of these kids are going to be lawyers right here in San Antonio, where the color of their skin in a courtroom doesn't matter. If you run down to the courthouse right now, a great deal of those attorneys are Latino/Latina. They're not going to face what they faced last weekend here. Oddly enough, I believe that the world is good. I do. I believe that most of our intentions are right. Even in this situation, the folks that had our kids go through this, I do not doubt for a second that they do not think they did anything wrong, that they were just clarifying. So what I want them to do is, I want them to just be strong. I want them to continue to work on becoming trial lawyers, to represent people that go through what they went through, but go through it because of their job or their daily life or whatever it is that they do. I am not preparing competitors. I am preparing lawyers, trial lawyers. I'm preparing them for life and the real courtroom.

Andy Vizcarra:

1.3% of lawyers in the United States are Latina women. 1.3.

Katie Phang:

It's a very small percentage, very small.

Andy Vizcarra:

Our school is 80% Hispanic, 70, 80, something crazy above the norm in terms of law schools in the United States. The team itself is 70, 80% Hispanic. So alright, well wherever St Mary's goes, our students, the majority of them are Hispanic and what does that say? What does that say to that kid that maybe took out loans and works two jobs and takes care of their Abuelita at home and is really struggling to stay in school, but they really so badly want to be an attorney, but they go somewhere and they just keep getting knocked down. What does that say?

[live Mariachi band playing and singing traditional Mexican music at FRIDA restaurant]

Katie Phang [narration]:

It's El Grito, Mexican Independence Day and Andy has come home to Frida her family's restaurant to celebrate.

[live Mariachi band playing traditional Mexican music in background]

Rosa Vizcarra:

I saw her passion since she was in high school and even before that, probably middle school. She was always social advocate. She's always interested further into what was going on in the country, in the world. Always loving history, always loving, spreading the word about rights and why things should be this way and not that way. But at the same time expressing why things were imperfect and how it falls in the universe. You could see her joy and her explosion of so many ideas and so many just... Passion, but intelligence and brightness and good.

Katie Phang [narration]:

That's Andy's mom, Rosa Vizcarra.

Elizandro Vizcarra:

[Spanish 55:25]

Rosa Vizcarra:

For me, was important to always celebrate this date with my children and show them and remind them that this is who you are and this is where we come from and this is our history. You should know who Hidalgo is, and you should know what the Grito represents, and you should know what the flag represents, the whole history behind it. Because that will just make you richer and broader and wiser and more tolerant and more understanding of everybody's different points of view. But if you have a strong foundation... I have always believed that it's like a house, right? You have to have a strong foundation, so you can hold the wind and the hurricanes and everything that comes to you and that comes from family, that comes from history. As kids, you’re reminded of it. You got to know what the Grito is, you got to know what it means, but it's an opportunity to come together. It's an opportunity to play friends to savor the flavors in Mexico. That's just the importance of it.

Andy and friend:

Uno, dos, tres. Mexicano! [Spanish]

Crowd:

Viva!

Andy and friend:

Viva, Hidaldo!

Crowd:

Viva!

Andy and friend:

[Spanish]

Crowd:

Viva!

Andy and friend:

[Spanish]

Crowd:

Viva!

Andy and friend:

[Spanish]

Crowd:

Viva!

Andy and friend:

[Spanish]

Crowd:

Viva!

Andy and friend:

¡Viva la Independencia Nacional!

Crowd:

Viva!

Andy and friend:

¡Viva Mexico!

Crowd:

Viva!

Andy and friend:

¡Viva Mexico!

Crowd:

Viva!

Andy and friend:

¡Viva Mexico!

Crowd:

Viva!

[cheers and applause]

Andy Vizcarra: [via phone message]

Hi, my name is Andy Vizcarra and I had an interview with the District Attorney's office today. I thought the interview went pretty well, I hope. I'm always, knock on wood when I say that, but I think they liked me. I'm feeling good this morning, going into it, I'm ready. Oh my gosh, hold on.

-

Ron Volesky:

I say where's Native American representation in state government? How many cabinet members in state government are Native American? How many Native Americans are on the circuit court bench throughout the state of South Dakota? Can I have an amen? Thank you! [crowd applause]

Katie Phang [narration]:

That's next time on Class Action. Class Action is a production of iHeartRadio and Sound Argument. Created, produced and edited by Kevin Huffman and Lisa Gray. This episode was written by Wendy Nardi. Executive producers are Taylor Chicoine and Katrina Norvell. Sound design, editing, and mixing by Evan Tyor and Taylor Chicoine. This episode had additional field production by Kristin Cabrera and Alfredo De La Garza. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your favorite shows.

# END