Archive for the ‘Legal’ Category

Contra Costa Superior Court remains closed through April 30, update on acceptance of filings

Saturday, March 28th, 2020

By Matt J. Malone, Public Information Officer, Superior Court of California, County of Contra Costa

The Court has requested authorization from the Chief Justice to continue its closure through April 30, 2020 and will issue a further release with details as to what Court operations will resume during any extended closure period.

While Court offices and facilities remain closed, the Court will begin accepting certain urgent filings as follows:

Emergency Criminal and Juvenile Matters. The Court will accept filings for emergency criminal and juvenile matters only beginning March 30, 2020.

o Criminal filings will be accepted via a drop box placed at the Main Street entrance of the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez.

o Juvenile filings will be accepted via a drop box at the Walnut Creek Courthouse.

o “Emergency matters” will be specifically defined in Emergency Local Rules which will be posted on the Court’s website as soon as possible.

All other matters EXCEPT Traffic and Unlawful Detainer matters. The Court will begin accepting certain filings for these matters on April 6, 2020. Emergency Local Rules governing these filings will be posted to the Court’s website by April 1, 2020.

o Civil and Family filings will be accepted at a drop box placed at the Main Street entrance of the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez.

o Family filings only will also be accepted via a drop box at the front of the Family Law building in Martinez.

Unlawful Detainer matters may not be filed at this time.

Traffic matters will not be handled at this time. If you seek to pay or challenge a traffic ticket, the Court remains closed. Please contact the Court upon reopening. No Court penalties or fines accrue during the closure.

Additional drop boxes available at branch courts. Beginning April 6, drop boxes will also be made available at both the Pittsburg and Richmond branch courts only for filings in case types heard at those locations.

Acceptance of filings by mail/delivery. The Court will accept approved filings, as defined by the case-type Emergency Local Rules, by mail or other delivery such as FedEx. Couriers will not have access to Court facilities, only to the drop boxes.

The Court will not schedule hearings or reset hearings that were scheduled during the closure period until the Court reopens, with the exception of urgent matters described above and those to be set forth in Emergency Local Rules. The Court will inform you of the rescheduled hearing date. Please do not call the Court asking for a date.

The Court will be closed completely on March 31, 2020, in observance of the Cesar Chavez holiday.

As with its initial closure, the Court’s request for a continued emergency order and limited closure is not in response to a specific notice of exposure at any Court facility or to any Court staff.

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OP-ED: Gov. Newsom’s Executive Order for 40 million Californians to Shelter In Place is not an order, it’s a recommendation

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

By Mark Meuser

Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20. The Office of the Governor of California’s official Twitter account said that “Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay at home order to protect the health and well-being of all Californians and to establish consistency across the state in order to slow the spread of COVID19.”

However, a more careful look at the Governor’s Executive Order shows that he actually made no such order. (https://covid19.ca.gov/img/N-33-20.pdf). The Executive Order reads “To preserve the public health and safety, and to ensure the healthcare delivery system is capable of serving all, and prioritizing those at the highest risk and vulnerability, all residents are directed to immediately heed the current State public health directives, which I ordered the Department of Public Health to develop for the current statewide status of COVID-19.”

The word “heed” is the important word in this order. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the word “heed” means “to give consideration or attention to”. As such, Governor Newsom has not actually ordered the people of California to obey the Public Health Officials but instead ordered “all residents are directed to immediately [give consideration to] the current State public health directives.”

While the Governor of California has broad powers to suspend laws and regulations while the state of California is under a State of Emergency, he does not have the power to abolish citizens constitutional rights. (Gov. Code § 8571).

California Constitution Article 1, Section 1 states “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.

California Constitution Article 1, Section 7 reads “A person may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law or denied equal protection of the laws …”.

The problem for Governor Newsom is that the Public Health Officials do not have the authority to quarantine someone who has not been infected. This violates Californians’ Constitutional Rights. The California Courts have held that people have a right of liberty from being quarantined unless the public health official has probably cause that they are infected. In Ex parte Arata, the California Court of Appeals ruled that “A mere suspicion, unsupported by facts giving rise to reasonable or probable cause, will not justify depriving a person of his liberty under an order of quarantine.”

Furthermore, in the case of In re Shepard the California Court of Appeals ruled that “Mere suspicion that an individual is afflicted with an isolable disease was not sufficient to give a health officer ‘reason to believe’ that such person was so afflicted, … making it the duty of health officers to protect the public against spread of such disease from persons whom such officers have ‘reason to believe’ were afflicted with such diseases.”

Public Health Officials do have the authority to quarantine someone who they have reason to believe has been infected by the virus. California law actually permits the Public Health Officials to quarantine such individuals without a court order. In Ex parte Johnson the California Court of Appeals ruled that “One infected with a contagious disease … might be subjected to quarantine regulations by the health commissioner of a city, without its first being judicially established by some proceeding in court that he or she was so infected.”

The reality of the situation in California is that Gavin Newsom has ordered the Department of Public Health to develop a policy for how to deal with the Corona Virus. However, the recommendations by the Department of Public Health are unconstitutional. Rather than ask the Department of Public Health to go back and rewrite the policies, Gavin Newsom tells everyone that he is ordering them to obey the directives of the Department of Public Health. However, regardless of what Gavin Newsom says with his mouth in press conferences or says on his social media accounts, the actual text of his Executive Orders are the laws. (Gov. Code § 8567).

The text of Gavin Newsom’s most recent Executive Order is merely a suggestion that the people of California obey the unconstitutional directive being published by the Department of Public Health. Whether or not it is advisable for people to stay home is not the question, the Department of Public Health does not have the authority to pass such a law, and Gavin Newsom does not have the authority to suspend Californians’ Constitutional Rights just because California is in a State of Emergency.

Meuser is a Constitution and elections law California attorney with the Dhillon Law Group. He is a former resident of Contra Costa County and 2018 candidate for California Secretary of State. You can follow him on Facebook.

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Contra Costa Superior Courts to close until April 1 beginning Monday due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) – no fooling

Sunday, March 15th, 2020

In response to the unique and continuing public safety challenge presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the numerous public health orders suggesting or requiring that public gatherings be limited:

The Contra Costa County Superior Court will be closed at all locations for approximately two weeks beginning Monday, March 16, 2020. Court locations hope to re-open at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 1st, 2020. Please check the Court website – http://www.cc-courts.org – for updates.

While the courts will be closed for most court cases starting on March 16, jurors who have been ordered to appear in court for criminal trials on Monday, March 16, must report to the court as ordered. At that time, the judges in those cases will provide guidance as to any further proceedings.

The Court appreciates the careful balance that must be maintained between the timely administration of justice and the protection of public health and safety. At the Court’s request and as permitted under Government Code section 68115, the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court has issued an emergency order providing that, at least until April 1, 2020, the court closure will have the effect of being a public holiday as far as statutory or other timelines are concerned.

• If you have a hearing scheduled during this period, it will be reset to a later date. Notice of the new hearing date will be mailed to you or your attorney.

• If you are scheduled for jury service during this period, your service will be rescheduled. Notice of the rescheduled date will be mailed to you.

• Any in custody arraignments will be handled in Martinez, but all courthouses are closed to the public. Juvenile in custody arraignments will be handled in Martinez though closed to the public. Counsel will be permitted at all arraignments.

• If you need to seek an emergency protective order and/or a temporary guardianship, please contact your local police agency who will seek an appropriate order on your behalf.

• If you need to contact the juvenile or criminal arraignment departments, please call 925-608-1199.

Importantly, this closure is not in response to a specific notice of exposure at any Court facility or to any Court staff. Instead, it is in an abundance of caution to help limit the spread of the virus and the potential for future exposure.

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Contra Costa Health Services prohibits mass gatherings of 100+ people through end of March

Saturday, March 14th, 2020

Violation of or failure to comply is a misdemeanor punishable by fine or imprisonment in the county jail, or both. 25 cases of coronavirus currently in the county. 

By Allen Payton

Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) has announced a mandatory order prohibiting public and private mass gatherings of 100 or more people. A new order from CCHS Health Officer, Dr. Chris Farnitano, posted at cchealth.org/coronavirus states, “Under the authority of Sections 101040 and 120175 of the California Health and Safety code, the Health Officer of the County of Contra Costa (“Health Officer”) orders effective as of 12:01 am on Sunday, March 15, 2020, and continuing through Tuesday, March 31, 2020, mass gatherings…defined as an event or convening that brings together 100 or more individuals at the same time in a single room or single confined or enclosed space, including but not limited to an auditorium, theater, stadium, arena, event center, meeting hall, conference center, cafeteria, or any confined indoor space of confined outdoor space.”

“Violation of or failure to comply with this is Order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine or imprisonment in the County jail, or both. (California Health & Saf. Code, § 120295.),” the announcement also states. (See the complete order, here – HO-COVID19-01-Prohibiting-Mass-Gatherings-of-100-or-more)

Furthermore, in a Facebook Live video with Contra Costa Health Director Ana Roth (which can be viewed on YouTube), Dr. Ori Tsveieli, Contra Costa Deputy and Acting Health Officer said, “We are strongly urging what are called social distancing strategies. No gatherings of people, because the virus can spread when people gather together. So, we want to limit gatherings of people. Our strong urging is to cancel or postpone gatherings of 50 or more people coming together. People who are especially vulnerable, who are the elderly or people with chronic medical conditions, really try to stay away from gatherings of people, even as small as 10 people together can elevate your risks.”

“If you are sick do not go to work or school,” he also stated. “Work from home if you can.”

“This is a key time,” Dr. Tsveieli continued. “We are trying to flatten the curve. Which means slow the spread down so that our healthcare infrastructure in our community can handle it.”

According to Contra Costa Health Services, as of Friday, March 13, 2020 at 9:30 a.m., in Contra Costa County there are 25 cases of residents with coronavirus/COVID-19 with zero deaths.

A press conference scheduled for 1:00 p.m. today. Speakers will include Contra Costa Board of Supervisors Chair Candace Andersen and Contra Costa health officials. The health officer’s goal is to firmly establish the critical need to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by eliminating crowds.

For the latest update from Contra Costa Health Services, visit https://www.coronavirus.cchealth.org/.

Expect more information to be added to this report. Please check back later.

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Deer Valley High Mock Trial team members honored during annual county competition

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

Team makes it to third round of competition

By Allen Payton

Six members of the Deer Valley High School Mock Trial Team led by Coach Brian Kofford from the Law and Justice Academy, received awards during this year’s Contra Costa County competition. The team made it to round three before being eliminated. (See the complete Mock Trial competition results).

The annual competition was won by San Ramon’s California High School Mock Trial Team for the third year in a row. The Grizzlies bested Acalanes, who took second place in the final round, and third place Miramonte beat Monte Vista which took fourth place in the Consolation round.

The Cal High team will represent county at the 39th Annual California State Mock Trial Finals on March 20-22 in Los Angeles, CA.

The Wolverines lost to Dougherty Valley High of San Ramon in the first round of competition on Tuesday, Jan. 28 but came back to beat De Anza High of Richmond in the second round on Wednesday, Jan. 30. Then, in the third round Monte Vista bested Deer Valley to move on to the next round of competition.

Four members of the Deer Valley team received a Judges’ Choice Honorable Mention: Janae Burks, Katherine Muster, Caitlin Todd and Savannah Turnage.

A Feb. 20th post on the Deer Valley High School Facebook page reads, “Congratulations to the DV Mock Trial Team and Coach Brian Kofford from the Law and Justice Academy. Tonight the team won several awards including Savannah Turnage, 2nd place for Best Closing Argument and 2nd for Best Cross-Examination as well as a Judge’s Choice Award, Courtney Johnson came in 1st place being a witness for the prosecution, Caitlin Todd won 2nd place for a different prosecution witness and a Judge’s Choice Award, Emma Crandell also won a prosecution witness award, Katherine Mustar won a Judge’s Choice Award as a defense witness and finally Janae Burks won a Judge’s Choice Award as an expert prosecution witness. Six students won nine awards total.”

Mock Trial Overview

The Mock Trial Program is sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF). Each year CRF creates a mock trial that addresses serious matters facing young people today.

Each team works with teacher and attorney coaches to prepare their version of the criminal case, both from the prosecution and defense perspective. Students assume the roles of trial attorneys, pretrial motion attorneys, witnesses, clerks, and bailiffs. Through these role-playing techniques, students learn about the content and processes of law in an exciting and vibrant way. Also, by studying the case and preparing strategies and arguments for trial, students increase their public speaking skills, analytical ability and team cooperation.

Some high schools offer the Mock Trial Program as a class rather than an extra-curricular activity.

At the State Finals, the winning teams from 36 counties will present People v. Matsumoto, the trial of Bailey Matsumoto. Bailey is the founder of a technology start-up that develops autonomous (self-driving) trucks. Bailey is charged with murder, which is the unlawful killing of another human being with malice afterthought. The pretrial issue involves the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Courtroom Art Contest

Students also had the opportunity to compete as courtroom artists by participating in the Courtroom Art Contest, a companion program to Mock Trials. As courtroom artists, students accompany their Mock Trial teams and sketch courtroom scenes that are later judged by a team of art judges. Download artist rules and registration information. The winner, Reese Whipple of Miramonte High, will represent Contra Costa County at the state finals.

Courtroom Journalism Contest

Students were given an opportunity to report on a Mock Trial from the perspective of a journalist. As courtroom reporters, students will accompany their school’s Mock Trial teams to the preliminary rounds of the competition. Courtroom reporters will then write and submit one 500-word news article on the trial they attended. Articles were judged by a panel of specialists. The winner, Christine Oh of California High, will represent Contra Costa County at the state finals.

See the list of all 2020 award winners here.

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Neighboring developers win again as judge invalidates Richland’s Initiative for The Ranch development

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Map of area covered by the Richland Communities’ alternative initiative, and The Ranch 1,177-home project that was ruled invalid by a Superior Court judge. Herald file graphic.

By Allen Payton

On Friday, November 22, 2019 Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Edward G. Weil issued the final ruling in the lawsuits brought by Oak Hill Partners and Zeka Ranch against the City of Antioch and developer Richland Communities, that “the entire Richland Initiative is invalid”. Richland Initiative final court ruling 11-22-19

In July 2018 the Antioch City Council adopted a voter initiative sponsored by Richland Communities that approved Richland’s development called “The Ranch”, while at the same time downzoning Oak Hill’s, Zeka’s, and other neighboring properties to just one home per 80 acres. In August 2018, the City Council followed up by adopting a second voter initiative sponsored by environmental groups to limit growth in the Sand Creek Focus Area, the so-called Let Antioch Voters Decide Initiative. Earlier this year, the Court ruled that the City’s adoption of the environmental groups’ initiative was invalid, and ordered the City to put that initiative on the November 2020 ballot. The earlier order also found that Richland’s inclusion of a Development Agreement between Richland and the City for The Ranch development was unlawful and invalid. (See related article).

In the 23-page November 22 ruling, the issue before the Court was whether Richland’s invalid Development Agreement for The Ranch could be “severed” from the initiative to allow the initiative to survive without the unlawful Development Agreement. The Court found Richland’s Development Agreement not to be “volitionally” severable from the rest of the initiative. Because the invalid Development Agreement is not severable from the balance of Richland’s initiative, the bottom line of the Court’s ruling is that the entire Richland Initiative is invalid.

According to the ruling, “The Court of Appeal has described the test for volitional severability as follows: The volitional requirement concerns whether the voters would have adopted the initiative without the invalid provisions.” Because the initiative was adopted by the City Council instead of submitting it to the voters, the Court focused on the “volition” or decision of the City Council in enacting the Richland Initiative. “The Court concludes that it is the volition of the City Council members who voted on the initiative that matters.”

The judge then reviewed the substantial, valuable community benefits promised by Richland in the Development Agreement if it proceeded with The Ranch development. These benefits included at least $1.2 million for improvements to Deer Valley High School, cost free land for a new fire station, land for an East Bay Regional Park trailhead, fees to support Antioch police, and other community benefits. In the absence of the Development Agreement, Richland would not be legally obligated to provide those benefits to the City as part of The Ranch development.

The judge found that Richland’s PowerPoint presentation shown to the City Council, at the meeting where the City Council adopted the initiative, was relevant and persuasive evidence provided by Oak Hill and Zeka.

In that presentation, it showed the Development Agreement included “Communitywide Benefits” such as the $1.2 million for Deer Valley High School facility improvements, and “Public Safety Benefits” such as the annual per home police fee.

The judge determined that “There is no guaranty that a different developer would agree to give the school district as much money as Richland agreed to give, just as there is no guaranty that a different developer would agree to devote 44% of its land to open space and parks, etc.” If the Development Agreement “were not approved, there would be no certainty as to when another willing developer might come along, and no certainty that the new developer would offer the City as good a deal.”

“The totality of the evidence persuades the Court that the Richland Initiative was a package deal, with the City agreeing to certain General Plan and Municipal Code amendments in exchange for the benefits specified in the Development Agreement.”

The judge’s ruling further determined that the initiative “imposed substantial development restrictions on other parts of the Sand Creek Focus Area including those owned by Zeka Ranch and Oak Hill” as part of a package with development of Richland’s The Ranch project. The Court found that those “development restrictions are not volitionally severable.”

Finally, the Court found that the General Plan and Zoning Code amendments that remained in the initiative outside of the Development Agreement could not be considered “standalone benefits independent of the Development Agreement.”

“Why would the City Council have wished to enact these amendments, if the City was not going to receive the benefits of the Development Agreement?” the judge asked rhetorically in his ruling. “This is another factor supporting the Court’s ruling on volitional severability.”

The result of the ruling means Richland must pursue its development through the development process with the City. The ruling also allows both Zeka Ranch and Oak Hill Partners to purse their development projects, as well.

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Judge tosses out Antioch Council’s adoption of environmental group’s Sand Creek initiative and The Ranch development agreement

Monday, July 15th, 2019

Herald file graphic.

Let Antioch Voters Decide initiative must go to Nov. 2020 ballot; Richland must produce new Environmental Impact Report

By Allen Payton

On May 31, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Edward Weil tossed out the Antioch City Council’s adoption of the initiative sponsored by environmental groups to limit growth in the Sand Creek Focus Area, as well as the development agreement for The Ranch project, contained in the competing initiative sponsored by Richland Communities. That agreement approved 1,177 homes on their property. (See related articles, here and here.) See judge’s ruling, here: Judge’s Order on initiatives lawsuits 05-31-19

As a result of the adoption by the Antioch Council of the two initiatives, last year, four lawsuits were filed against the City of Antioch, two each by The Zeka Group and Oak Hill Park Company, challenging both initiatives. The Zeka Group owns the 640-acre Zeka Ranch property on Old Empire Mine Road at the west end of the Sand Creek Focus Area, and according to the court documents, “which Zeka Group purchased in 1989. Prior to purchase, the City’s planning development manager, Raymond Vignola, assured Zeka Group that the property was and would continue to be designated for residential development of 1000+ units. The City’s 2003 General Plan called for 4,000+ units in the Sand Creek Focus Area, and Zeka Ranch was to develop the executive housing stock.” That resulted in a reduction of the number of housing units on the property that can be built. Zeka’s plans are to build 340 homes on their property.

Oak Hill “owns roughly 419 acres in three parcels” directly south of The Ranch project, “designated for a golf course and senior housing in the 2003 General Plan.”

The city council adopted both initiatives instead of placing either on the ballot, as the council had the option of doing. First, they adopted the one sponsored by Richland on July 11, 2018, which also resulted in the adoption of the development agreement 30 days later. The other initiative, entitled Let Antioch Voters Decide: The Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative (LAVD) sponsored by Save Mount Diablo and other environmental groups in the county, was adopted by the council on August 28, after the council had sent it back for more study and a report by city staff, which was also one of the options the council had.

Both initiatives downgraded the development potential on the Zeka Ranch, Oak Hill and other properties in the Sand Creek area west of Deer Valley Road to just one home per 80 acres, the same level as land outside the city’s and county’s Urban Limit Lines. The entire Sand Creek area is inside the city’s voter approved ULL. That would allow only eight homes on Zeka’s property and only five homes on the Oak Hill property.

The Ranch Development Agreement Unlawfully Included In Initiative, Requires EIR

In the decision, “the Court finds that the Richland Initiative unlawfully includes the Development Agreement between Richland and the City…but it may be severed from the remainder of the Richland Initiative.” The court also found that “The Development Agreement cannot be approved by initiative and requires compliance with CEQA” (the California Environmental Quality Act).

The decision means the development agreement is invalid and Richland must go through CEQA’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process in order to obtain approval of their development agreement. Whether or not the development agreement can be separated from the initiative has yet to be determined. If the judge finds that it can’t be, that will result in the entire initiative being invalidated.

Voids Let Antioch Voters Decide Initiative

In addition, the court found, “The LAVD Initiative is void as an improperly-adopted amendment to the Richland Initiative. The…question is whether the LAVD Initiative improperly amended the Richland Initiative. The Court concludes that it did. Under Elections Code section 9217, the City could not adopt the LAVD Initiative on its own. A vote of the people was required. This renders the LAVD Initiative void.”

The Council Must Place the LAVD Initiative On The Ballot

The court further finds, “Since the LAVD Initiative amends the Richland Initiative, the City had no choice but to put the LAVD Initiative before the voters. It would be manifestly unfair to the supporters of the LAVD Initiative to start the process over because the City instead adopted it. So, the Court is inclined to order the LAVD Initiative to a vote. The Court is unconvinced that the Richland Initiative is somehow immune from challenge by initiative amendment.”

The court prohibits “the City from enforcing the LAVD Initiative.” The judge then ordered the city council to place the environmental groups’ initiative on the November 2020 ballot. City Clerk Arne Simonsen said he has sufficient funds to include the ballot measure on the November 2020 election ballot.

Zoning For Zeka Ranch’s Property Couldn’t Be Changed By Initiative

In an additional decision, the judge ruled that the city council couldn’t change the designation of executive housing for the Zeka Ranch property.

“A city may not adopt ordinances and regulations which conflict with the state Planning and Zoning Law,” the ruling quoted from a previous court case. The judge further wrote, “Government Code section 65913.1 provides that a city ‘shall designate and zone sufficient vacant land for residential use with appropriate standards, in relation to zoning for nonresidential use, and in relation to growth projections of the general plan to meet housing needs for all income categories as identified in the housing element of the general plan.’

Zeka Ranch claims…that the Richland Initiative violated the code by restricting development in a manner that makes it impossible to meet the City’s housing needs allocation, particularly for the kind of executive housing Zeka Ranch was to build.

In fact, Zeka Ranch pleads that the General Plan called for allocation of one-to-two units per developable acre and contained a housing element specifically calling for residential development appropriate for executives of businesses seeking relocation to the City. Accepting this as true, Zeka Ranch properly pleads this claim.”

Legal Process Continues

The legal process continues over the two initiatives. To conclude his ruling the judge wrote, “The remaining challenges to the Richland Initiative will be resolved in a further phase.” Furthermore, the judge wrote, “Parties shall appear to discuss the proper remedy as to the LAVD Initiative and any further orders that may be necessary, as well as a schedule for briefing the remaining matters related to the Richland Initiative.”

In addition, the judge gave the parties in the lawsuits until June 24 to file amended pleadings. Both Zeka and Oak Hill submitted them by the deadline.

The case numbers are MSN-18-2228, 2229, 2231 and 2232.

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Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial seeks legal professionals to volunteer

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Deer Valley High Law Academy team will be one of 17 competing

Bay Area soon-to-be, practicing, and retired law professionals are needed to provide assistance to their future brethren at the upcoming 38th Annual Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial Program, held on seven early weekday evenings during late January and early February, in the Martinez Court Rooms. Last year, close to 100 Bay Area practicing and retired attorneys and sworn judges, as well as third-year law students volunteered their time with the Mock Trials.

Coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), Mock Trial is an academic event provided for high school students. The hands-on educational program was created to help students acquire a working knowledge of our judicial system, develop analytical abilities and communication skills, and gain an understanding of their obligations and responsibilities as participating members of our society. This year’s case, People v. Klein: A young adult is charged with two felony counts: making a false report of an emergency (in this case, commonly referred to as “swatting”) and making a criminal threat.

“This program is a great tool to ensure that our students understand the workings of the trial courts and thus the importance of an independent judiciary, says,” says Contra Costa County Presiding Judge Barry Baskin. Judge Baskin, a long-time Mock Trial volunteer, encourages all of his local fellow law professional to join him in assisting with this year’s Mock Trial Competition.

Teams of high school students work with teachers and volunteer coaches to prepare their version of the criminal case, from both the prosecution and defense perspectives.  Students assume the roles of trial attorneys, pre-trial motion attorneys, witnesses, clerks, bailiffs, artists, and court journalists. Mock Trial judges and attorneys score their performance and provide immediate feedback. Winning teams advance through seven rounds of competition. The county’s champion advances to the State finals. This year, there will be 17 Mock Trial teams competing, representing high schools throughout all of Contra Costa County.

Volunteers will score two competing schools that argue the case in their assigned court. Each night, will begin with a 15-minute rules and regulations training, then the volunteers will go into their scheduled courtrooms to serve as Mock Trial judge and scorers.  The Mock Trials’ scorers are made up of Bay Area deputy district attorneys and deputy public defenders, as well as public-sector, private-practice, and corporate lawyers. In addition, seasoned law students are also welcome to participate. A practicing or retired judge or commissioner will preside over each trial, and also serves as one of the trial’s scorers.

“We applaud the hard work and time our students and their coaches put in to prepare for our Mock Trial program,” said Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey. “In addition, we are grateful for the continued generous volunteer support we receive from our county’s Judicial, District Attorney, and Public Defender offices, as well as so many of our current and retired public- and private-practice attorneys. This successful program would never come together without so much support from the community.”

Teams from the following 17 Contra Costa County high schools will be competing:
Acalanes (Lafayette), Alhambra (Martinez), California (San Ramon), Campolindo (Moraga), Carondelet High (Concord), Clayton Valley Charter (Concord), De Anza High (Richmond), Deer Valley Law Academy (Antioch), Dougherty Valley (San Ramon), El Cerrito (El Cerrito), Hercules Middle/High (Hercules), Heritage (Brentwood), Kennedy (Richmond), Las Lomas (Walnut Creek), Miramonte (Orinda), Monte Vista (Danville), and Richmond (Richmond).

Last year, several students from the Dear Valley High Law Academy earned individual awards including Loren Paylage, Kyle Lewis, Jafar Khalfani-Bey Kiara Chatman, Tristen Patel, Orianna Todd, and Elizabeth Vargas.

Schedule for 2019 Contra Costa County High School Mock Trials:

Preliminaries: January 29 and 31; February 5 and 7, – 5:00-8:30 p.m. (Nine competitions each night)

Quarterfinals: February 12, 5:00-8:00 p.m. (Four competitions)

Semifinals: February 14, 5:00-8:00 p.m. (Two competitions)

Final and Consolation: February 19, 5:00-8:00 p.m. (Two competitions)

Mock Trial will be headquartered at the A.F. Bray Courthouse, 1020 Ward Street, in Martinez.

Interested volunteers can learn more by visiting the CCCOE’s Mock Trial Web page, or contacting Jonathan Lance at jlance@cccoe.k12.ca.us or (925) 942-3429.

The two highest-scoring teams will advance to the finals on Tuesday, February 19. The winning team will then represent Contra Costa County at the California State Mock Trial Competition, held in Sacramento, Calif., March 22-23. The California state finalist team will then compete in the National Mock Trial Competition, held May 16-18, Athens, Georgia.

In 1977, the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) introduced the concept of mock trials to the Los Angeles schools. In 1980, the program expanded to the state level. The California Mock Trial Program currently involves more than 36 counties and over 8,000 student participants from more than 400 teams. Approximately 1,500 attorney volunteers serve as team coaches and scorers, and 500 Municipal, Superior, and Appellate Court judges preside over the trials.

Preliminaries: January 29 and 31; February 5 and 7, – 5:00-8:30 p.m. (Nine competitions each night)

Quarterfinals: February 12, 5:00-8:00 p.m. (Four competitions)

Semifinals: February 14, 5:00-8:00 p.m. (Two competitions)

Final and Consolation: February 19, 5:00-8:00 p.m. (Two competitions) 

Mock Trial will be headquartered at the A.F. Bray Courthouse, 1020 Ward Street, in Martinez.

Interested volunteers can learn more by visiting the CCCOE’s Mock Trial Web page, or contacting Jonathan Lance at jlance@cccoe.k12.ca.us or (925) 942-3429. 

The two highest-scoring teams will advance to the finals on Tuesday, February 19. The winning team will then represent Contra Costa County at the California State Mock Trial Competition, held in Sacramento, Calif., March 22-23. The California state finalist team will then compete in the National Mock Trial Competition, held May 16-18, Athens, Georgia.

In 1977, the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) introduced the concept of mock trials to the Los Angeles schools. In 1980, the program expanded to the state level. The California Mock Trial Program currently involves more than 36 counties and over 8,000 student participants from more than 400 teams. Approximately 1,500 attorney volunteers serve as team coaches and scorers, and 500 Municipal, Superior, and Appellate Court judges preside over the trials. 

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