El Dorado High School students defeated students from Fountain Valley High in the finals of the annual Orange County Mock Trial competition last week at the County Courthouse in Santa Ana.
The competition is sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation of Orange County and the Orange County Bar Assn.
Costa Mesa attorney Alan V. Thaler, a board member of the Constitutional Rights Foundation and attorney coach for the Fountain Valley team, said 114 trials leading to the finals were held since early November. This year's program involved more than 1,800 students from 46 Orange County high schools.
Thaler said students presented the case, People vs. Bell, which involved First Amendment rights, religious intolerance and arson.
Student teams played the roles of prosecution and defense attorneys, witnesses, clerks and bailiffs. Judges from Orange County Superior, Municipal and U.S. District courts, as well as attorneys, participated by lending time and expertise.
Thaler said the Orange County Mock Trial program is the largest in the state and second most comprehensive program in the country. Since the program started 12 years ago, more than 20,000 students from county schools have participated.
The mock trial gives students a chance to improve their speaking skills and offers them insights into the mechanics of a criminal case.
Members of the El Dorado team, coached by teacher Jim Disbennett, are Sunshine Arena, Kristin Balla, Robert Beggs, Michelle Braun, Gavin Carlton, Cleo Chan, Ernie Cheng, Tim Galvin, Jonathan Hsiao, Faith Jass, Jonathan Klein, Nicole Schmidt, Jennifer Seltzer, Michael Steinberger, Kristina Streimikes, Minh-Ha Trieu and James Wu.
Now that El Dorado has taken the top spot locally, the team from Placentia will compete in April at the State Mock Trial in Sacramento.
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