(Left to right) Santa Monica High School mock trial team coach Christopher A. Kanjo, Judy Durkin (seventh grader at John Adams Middle School; awarded ‘Outstanding Defense Attorney’ in 2012 Los Angeles County Mock Trial middle school competition); Emma Gardner (junior at Santa Monica High School; awarded ‘Outstanding Defense Pretrial Attorney’ in the high school competition); William Sadler (Los Angeles County public defender and coach for both the John Adams Middle School and Santa Monica High School). (Photo courtesy Erin Flannery)

(Left to right) Santa Monica High School mock trial team coach Christopher A. Kanjo, Judy Durkin (seventh grader at John Adams Middle School; awarded ‘Outstanding Defense Attorney’ in 2012 Los Angeles County Mock Trial middle school competition); Emma Gardner (junior at Santa Monica High School; awarded ‘Outstanding Defense Pretrial Attorney’ in the high school competition); William Sadler (Los Angeles County public defender and coach for both the John Adams Middle School and Santa Monica High School). (Photo courtesy Erin Flannery)

DOWNTOWN — Two Santa Monica public school students were recognized recently for their performance in a mock trial pitting them against young lawyers from over 60 schools in Los Angeles County.

Judy Durkin, a student at John Adams Middle School, received the award for Outstanding Defense Attorney in the Junior Division and Santa Monica High School student Emma Gardner took home the Alan I. Rothenberg Outstanding Defense Pretrial Attorney in the Senior Division of the 35th annual Los Angeles County Mock Trial Program, produced by the Constitutional Rights Foundation.

It’s the third year that students at JAMS and the first year that students at Samohi have participated in the program, said Bill Sadler, an attorney with the Public Defender’s Office and volunteer mock trial coach.

“It was really gratifying to see the kids do so well,” said Sadler, whose kids attend schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. “They put in a lot of hours of very difficult work. These awards were earned in the classroom after spending countless hours working on their cases. They were incredibly dedicated.”

Durkin’s case involved a hit-and-run collision involving a bike rider and a vehicle. Her team won the case, sparing her client from having to serve time in mock jail.

“I loved that feeling of being in the courtroom,” Durkin, 13, said. “Now I think it’s something I want to pursue as an adult. It was a very fun experience.”

Durkin thanked her coaches for their guidance.

“I can’t wait until next year and hope to do this in high school and then maybe college,” she said.

The Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) is a non-profit, non-partisan, community-based organization dedicated to educating America’s young people about the importance of civic participation in a democratic society.

 

kevinh@smdp.com

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