It was like offering a team of Little Leaguers a chance to play in the World Series.
When Bernard Kamins asked the 10 students in his trial advocacy class which of them wanted to help out on the O. J. Simpson case, 10 hands shot eagerly into the air.
Two months later, three of the students, along with a gutsy young woman from Arcadia, are players in what some have called the "trial of the century."
Kathy Moran, Paul Tyler and Steve Golob--all second- or third-year students at Pepperdine University School of Law--and Tasia Scolinos, a walk-in applicant, are law clerks for Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito during Simpson's double murder trial.
For nothing more than a few school credits and the sheer exhilaration of it--along with a great entry on their resumes--they do research for Ito and perform tasks such as organizing juror questionnaires, copying documents and running errands.
At the start of the trial, the well-dressed and poised quartet of law clerks were a bit of a mystery to court watchers. They obviously had some official connection to the case; Ito was allowing them into his chambers regularly, and they often sat together in the usually off-limits jury box. It was several days before their role became known.
Now, they are familiar fixtures in the courtroom. Ito often summons them from the audience to do his bidding. One has been designated to baby-sit reporters as they look over questionnaires submitted by potential jurors.
They are on familiar terms with the case's big-name lawyers and view them as living textbooks on courtroom demeanor and strategy.
"At first I felt intimidated," Tyler said. "It was like 3-D. It was like you were still watching it on TV, but you were sitting right there."
Now he and the others have become more comfortable with their role and are even enjoying some on-campus celebrity. "People come up to you and say, 'I heard you're working on the Simpson case,' " Tyler said. "You're not just some anonymous law student."
Kamins, an adjunct law professor at Pepperdine who also is a Superior Court judge and a friend of Ito's, called Moran, Tyler and Golob "the pick of the litter" among his students at the Malibu campus.
And Tasia Scolinos . . . well, Tasia Scolinos is in a class of her own.
The recent Claremont-McKenna College graduate and law school hopeful decided early on that Ito would need her assistance, and--out of the blue--sent him her resume. It was the only unsolicited application he received.
Ito called her himself to let her know she was in.
"If you're not assertive and take some risks, you can really miss out on some incredible benefits," the 22-year-old said matter-of-factly last week.
That same sort of assertiveness landed her an internship in the British Parliament two years ago when she was studying government as an undergraduate at Claremont-McKenna. Scolinos came up with the idea, found a program and talked her advisers into approving it.
Scolinos got her first taste of fame, however, on the Simpson case.
Earlier this month, Ito handed her a $20 bill in the middle of a Simpson hearing and sent her rushing to a nearby bookstore to buy him a copy of "Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted"--the splashy book that shut down jury selection for two days.
Tyler also has had his 15 minutes of fame.
During one televised court session, Ito, addressing him as "Mr. Tyler," summoned the 28-year-old Camarillo native from the audience to the bench and, on camera, privately asked him to go research the point of law that was under discussion.
A legal expert providing commentary for the live television coverage of the session apparently mistook the law clerk for a member of the police force.
" 'Well, evidently Detective Tyler is going to testify,' " Tyler recalls the commentator intoning.
The other law clerks found that amusing--and revealing.
"He couldn't have been much of a legal expert if he thought a witness was up there having a sidebar with the judge," Scolinos scoffed.
It was Kamins' idea to draft a corps of student volunteers for the Simpson case.
Usually, he said, he gives his students courtroom experience by arranging internships for them with prosecutors or public defenders.
But when he presided briefly over the case of four Los Angeles police officers accused of beating Rodney G. King before that trial was moved to Simi Valley, he allowed some of his students to assist him.
They worked out so well, Kamins said, that he approached Ito about doing something similar in the Simpson case and got his approval.
"The prosecutors had an army of lawyers to assist them and the defense certainly had an army of lawyers," Kamins said. "All Lance had was Lance." (Actually, the judge also has a research attorney, Rick Ocampo, and his regular courtroom clerk, Deirdre Robertson.)
With the extra volunteer help, "Lance benefits and the students benefit," Kamins said.