There is not enough space to truly answer this question, but I can share the genesis story. I was talking with Marissa Boyers- Bluestine, head of the Innocence Project of Pennsylvania, after filming a scene with her on a film I was producing for the Netflix series, The Innocence Files in 2019. The story concerned the plight of Chester Hollman, who had been wrongly convicted of murder and was serving his 27th year behind bars. The Innocence Project was parterning with Chester's attorney, Alan Tauber and the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney's office, headed by Patricia Cummings.
It was a long day of filming and, making small talk, I asked Marissa what she was doing that weekend. She said that she was traveling to California with her team. I was surprised she had the time and asked her, "what sport are they playing, is it a softball team?" "No," she said, "it's a trial team. I coach the Temple University Law School mock trial team and we're competing in a tournament with other law schools." I thought, who knew that law schools compete against each other. I'm perfectly fine admitting I'm out of it. She said I should check it out and I contacted the team at Temple to learn more. They invited me to listen in on a practice and I had a thousand questions.
I had grown exhausted after doing series after series about the many woes of the justice system - life on death row, the leading causes of wrongful convictions, films about cops, films about victims. I needed something more aspirational - something about the promise of the justice system. And something that showed how hard the many dedicated lawyers I've met worked to do justice.
My next step was to reach out to my good pal, Lisa Gray. We used to work together at Radical Media with Joe Berlinger on criminal justice projects and, yes, the Tony Robbins documentary. That summer she had asked me to write narration for a podcast series she was producing about death and dying, called a Good End, for My Jewish Learning. I'm not Jewish, but I learned a lot about how critical it is to many to adhere to Jewish law when facing end-of life issues. I learned about green funerals and hospice care.
Anyway, I mentioned the mock trial idea to Lisa and she said, wow, we should do something with this. I have a friend who might be interested and they have money. One thing led to another and we had to come up with a treatment.
The Temple team passed on the idea, but introduced me to Adam Shlahet and Joe Lester, the ESPN of law school mock trial. They, in turn introduced me to AJ Bellido de Luna, Laura Rose and the team at Brooklyn Law. We originally were going to produce this as a filmed documentary series and got some serious interest from a couple of noted production companies in NY. But when the pandemic hit, all bets were off -- who wanted to watch a bunch of filmed trials? Nobody.
So we missed the 2020 season and re-imagined the idea as a podcast. Low and behold we had multiple offers from companies who loved the idea of a podcast. So we eventually cut a deal with iHeart and closed in August, 2021, just in time for boot camp. The original plan was to cover 8 teams! We were out of our minds. But we did find the Dillard team or they found us. Covering 4 has been a thrill and a handful for our VERY small team.
So, there is the genesis story for Class Action. We truly celebrate these teams, the coaches and the young lawyers. We hope you enjoy listening and please write a review for us! We'd love to hear your thoughts.