Log in using OpenID

the Trial Advocate

Hello again from Berkeley Law’s trial
advocacy program! I once again have the
honor of updating you with our team’s
successes in the beginning of the 2013-14
There was a lot of excitement coming
into our season, with 22 new faces on our
team of 30 students. This meant the largest
fall Trial Competition Intensive class we’ve
ever had, as well as many opportunities for
our students to have their first experience
with competitive trial advocacy.
As expected, our students rose to the
We started the year off quickly with a
successful trip to the ABA Labor & Employ-
Super Alumni!
ment competition, with Regionals being in
San Francisco.
Our four-student team,
coached by veterans in our program, along
with a wonderful first-year coach, advanced
to the semi-final round of the competition—
the top four teams in the entire tournament.
We were also invited, for the second year
in a row, to the Tournament of Champions,
held this year at Cumberland School of the
Law at Samford University in Birmingham,
Alabama. Our team, along with our veteran
coaches, made a strong appearance in an
unusually difficult field.
Our Fall season came to a close with our
first-ever trip to the prestigious National
Civil Trial Competition, hosted by Loyola
Law School in Los Angeles. Again competing
against the strongest teams in the country,
our students made us proud with
unwavering advocacy throughout the
In Trial Competition Intensive, the class all
students who compete on our teams must
take, we increased our focus on drill-based
training, with special emphasis on drills that
keep preparation time to an absolute
minimum. Our favorite drill is the “flash trial
drill,” in which the students get 30 minutes
to prepare to try a case. This year we did
the flash trial drill twice instead of once, and
Pictured above, from left, are our ABA Labor
& Employment team members, Sam Sondag,
’15, Eric Cuellar, ’14, coach Katie Lubin, ’08,
Bryn Starbird, ’14, and Anthony Guzman,
not only did we improve our trial skills, we
had some fun.
In the spring we’re looking forward to our
6th Annual Bales Trial Competition, the
wonderful internal trial tournament we host
each year, which is a major driver in our
program’s success.
But before we get to the Spring, please
enjoy this recap our Fall season!
Spencer Pahlke, ’07
Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger
Director of Boalt Trial Competition Teams
Boalt Hall | Trial Advocacy
’13 - ’14
ABA Labor & Employment
We got off again to an excellent start this
year at the ABA Labor & Employment
competition competition in San Francisco.
We've historically had several successful
trips to this tournament, and this year was
no exception to that rule.
Our L&E team consisted of Bryn Starbird,
'14, Eric Cuellar, '14, Samantha Sondag, '15,
and Anthony Guzman, '16. Our coaches
were Katie Lubin, '08, Aubry Holland, '08, and
Ed Piper, '12. We were very excited to
welcome Aubry into our program. She is a
labor law specialist at Orrick in San
Francisco, and the perfect complement to
our team. She joined veteran coach Katie
Lubin, and additional first-time coach Ed
This year's problem involved a common
fact pattern with a twist: unlawful
termination on account of a disability, with
the disability being alcoholism. Our students
on the plaintiff's side represented plaintiff
Jamie Knight, who worked in the kitchen of
defendant Newton Valley Nursing Homes,
Inc. When she was hired, she contends that
she made Newton Valley aware of her
disability, and that she was knowingly hired
with the disability of alcoholism.
Three years later, upon notifying
management that she would be checking
into an inpatient rehabilitation facility to
treat her disability, Newton Valley fired her.
She therefore filed a employment case,
arguing that Newton Valley failed to
reasonably accommodate her disability.
Newton Valley responded that it terminated
her due to poor performance and reports
that she was intoxicated in public, which
reflected poorly on the defendant's
Our students distinguished themselves in
the preliminary rounds, doing well enough to
advance to the semi-final round of the
tournament, making this the fourth straight
year in which we have advanced to the
of the team for carrying on Boalt's traditions
of teamwork and good sportsmanship. Our
students also pointed out that among the
benefits from the practice they put in was
honing their verbal advocacy skills,
something that regular law school classes
simply do not provide. Whether it was
practicing late into the night or waking up
I enjoyed practicing how to craft
arguments on the fly. Whether in a tricky
cross examination, a pretrial motion in
limine, or in response to an objection,
that's a skill that law students don't really
get to hone aside from the occasional
I also enjoyed preparing for the
competition while studying Evidence for
the first time: without trial team as an
application, I think I'd be much more lost
in class!
elimination rounds at this tournament.
Competing against the team from Hastings,
we had an exceptionally close round, with
Hastings narrowly winning to advance to the
final round.
While their in-trial performance was
impeccable, perhaps we can be most proud
early to compete, our team was just that: a
team, in every respect.
Great job ABA L&E team, we're proud of
all of you!
Finally, the people were great. My L&E
teammates were wonderful, and I can't
think of any other people I would have
rather picked up from Boalt at 6:30 a.m.
o n a S a t u r d ay t o d r i ve t o t h e
tournament. The trial team as a whole
was also incredibly supportive, sending us
regular, positive messages during the trial
competition (which was, for three of us,
our first).
Sam Sondag, ’15 / ABE L&E 2013
Tournament of Champions
We were honored once again to be invited
to the Tournament of Champions, one of the
most selective competitions in the country.
This was our second year in attendance, and
we did not disappoint.
Led by veteran coach Bruce Budner, along
with first-time coach but long-time trial
advocacy star Kaitlyn Murphy, '13, our team
included Kayla Delgado, '14, Christine Chan,
'15, Janice Liu, '15, and William Lisa, '15. The
Tournament of Champions tournament is
always held by the team that won the
competition two years before. This year,
that was the Cumberland School of the Law
at Samford University in Birmingham,
Alabama. The hosting team is responsible for all
aspects of the tournament, ranging from the
problem to the
logistics of the
Cumberland did a
wonderful job in
all respects.
T h i s y e a r ' s
competition was
equal parts
opportunity to
improve trial
skills and learning
of crucial United States history, both woven
together by the fact pattern.
The problem was modeled on the
bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church
in Birmingham in the summer of 1963. With
this being the 50th anniversary of the
bombing, Cumberland used the opportunity
to teach history and advocacy,
all at once. In our fictitious
version of the problem, a
bomb went off and killed a
man working near the 15th
Street Baptist Church in
Birmingham. The defendant
was prosecuted—many years
after the fact—for lending his
car to one of the bombers, on
the theory that he was an
accomplice in the crime.
were impassioned, pitch perfect in tone,
tempo, and gesture. Ms. Liu, also on the
defense side, dismantled the prosecution's
case on cross examination with precision in
both her words and manner. Ms. Delgado
and Mr. Lisa, handling the prosecution side of
the case, played the role of eminently
reasonable prosecutors. Mr. Lisa provided
the reliably solid start with an opening
statement that told the story of the tragedy,
and set the jury on a path toward a guilty
verdict. Ms. Delgado not only sealed the
deal with a closing argument from which
nothing but a guilty verdict could escape, but
also was the steady, guiding hand throughout
the trial, never showing outward concern no
matter how difficult the challenge.
Through the four preliminary rounds
against the best teams in the country, our
Pictured above, from left, Spencer Pahlke,
’07, Janice Liu, ’15, Kayla Delgado, ’14,
William Lisa, ’15, Christine Chan, ’15, and
coach Bruce Budner.
At left and below, the famed sign for the
16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham,
Alabama, along with the entirety of the
church shown below. The bombing the
church, on September 15, 1963, destroyed
much of the building shown in the right side
of the photo.
students won two rounds and lost two
rounds. One of the losses was a very
narrow defeat against the team that ended
up getting second place overall. It was an
excellent performance by our team and
coaches, great work!
During the competition,
Cumberland had lectures and
learning opportunities
embedded in the schedule,
including a presentation put
on by the US Attorney who
tried the case that was the
basis of our TOC problem. It
was a perfect combination.
In competition, our students
performed admirably.
Chan's closing arguments
National Civil
Trial Competition
This was the first year Berkeley has ever
been invited to the prestigious National Civil
Trial Competition, hosted each year by
Loyola - Los Angeles. We were very excited
to join this year's field given the
tournament's excellent reputation among
competing schools. Our team consisted of
James Unger, '14, Salah Hawkins, '15, Tamila
Gresham, '15, and Margi Schierberl, '15. Our
coaches were Spencer Pahlke, '07, and
Valerie Rose, '10.
The problem was modeled off a famous
lawsuit against food personality Paula Dean.
In our case, the defendant was Bobby Dean,
a restaurateur and Food Network television
star based in Georgia. The plaintiff was Jamie
Jackson, a longtime employee at one of Ms.
Dean's restaurants, Daddy Bubba's Seafood
and Oyster House. The main culprit at the
restaurant was Ms. Dean's now-deceased
brother, Bubba Dean.
In the competition, Mr. Unger and Ms.
Gresham represented Ms. Jackson on the
plaintiff's side, while Ms. Schierberl and Mr.
Hawkins represented Ms. Dean and her
company. When it was Mr. Unger's and Ms.
Gresham's turn, Ms. Gresham used her
powerful courtroom presence throughout
trial, but especially during her well-crafted
opening statement. Mr. Unger served as the
perfect bookend during the closing
argument, marshaling the facts of the case
and walking the jury through a complicated
Above, from left to right are Coach Valerie
Rose, ’10, Tamila Gresham, ’15, Salah
Hawkins, ’15, Honorary Coach Sara Haji,
’14, James Unger, ’14, Margi Schierberl,
’15, and Coach Spencer Pahlke, ’07.
Below, in a totally unscripted and
spontaneous moment, the team enjoys a
laugh in the minutes after a strong showing
in trial.
special verdict form. When it was the
defense's turn, Ms. Schierberl executed a
gentle but pointed cross examination of a
sympathetic plaintiff with aplomb, and Mr.
Hawkins's lawyering was perhaps only
outdone by his performance as the
character Terry Murphy.
Mr. Hawkins
transformed Murphy, a consultant from New
York, into perhaps the funniest witness ever
before seen in law school mock trial. After a
tournament event on Saturday evening, Mr.
Hawkins stayed in character for several
hours, pitching cab drivers and night club
bouncers—and everyone in between—on
his HR services as a consultant. All at the
modest rate of $550/hour.
At NCTC, we had the opportunity to
compete against three excellent schools, and
had three close rounds. As expected, our
students made us proud. Nice job NCTC!
The plaintiff's case alleged that Bubba
drank throughout the day, danced in sexually
explicit ways in the kitchen, and spent much
of his time perusing pornography on work
computers, often so he could show it to
other employees during work. Bobby Dean
and her company defended the matter on
the basis that these allegations were
unsupported and, in any case, she was never
put on notice of such conduct.
Yesterday, Students. Today, Stars.
search of the vehicle. On cross examination,
I went over the testifying officer’s various
positions throughout the entire traffic stop
and was able to establish that Mr. Martin had
conversations with the other (non-testifying)
officer that was out of the earshot of the
testifying officer.
The next question
established that the officer actually never
heard Mr. Martin make the previouslyadmitted statement (based on his position
away from the driver’s side window when
the alleged statements would have been
made)! We were then able to exclude the
statements based on the Confrontation
Clause, and the jury was instructed to
disregard any statements attributed to Mr.
Berkeley’s trial successes are hardly
confined to the mock courtroom. With our
growing trial advocacy alumni community,
including many former students who have
started careers that put them in the
courtroom, I’m happy to report that I’m
hearing of more and more successes in trial
from our young alumni.
In this edition of the Trial Advocate, we hear
from Sandhya Ramadas, ’09, and Jerome
Price, ’11. Both had great successes in
recent trials. I am told that Ms. Ramadas
received a round of cheers by the judge,
courtroom staff, and even opposing counsel
after she put on her first witness ever!
In law school, Ms. Ramadas competed in
both the NTC and SFTLA trial
competitions, making it to regional finals in
NTC during her 3L year.
Mr. Price
competed in the San Diego Defense Legal
tournament, winning it his 2L year, and also
made it to the AAJ National Competition his
3L year, getting to the top 4 out of more
than 200 teams nationally.
Ms. Ramadas is now an associate at the
renowned Los Angeles firm, Bird Marella.
Mr. Price is an Assistant Federal Public
Defender in Fresno.
Berkeley Law:
Boalt Hall
Tr i a l A d v o c a c y
Jerome Price, ’11
Martin about having marijuana in his car.
In United States v. Martin, Mr. Martin was
driving through Edwards Air Force Base
when he was pulled over for driving 68 mph
in a 55 mph zone. When he was retrieving
his registration from the glove box, the
officers noticed that in the glove box there
was a green vial containing medical
marijuana. When officers asked Mr. Martin
for consent to search his car, he consented
and stated that there was marijuana in the
car. The United States charged Mr. Martin
with possession of a controlled substance.
During the jury trial, the government
called one of the officers who executed the
stop and an investigator who would confirm
that the substance seized was marijuana. On
direct examination, the officer testified that
Mr. Martin stated that there was marijuana in
the car before the officers conducted the
Sandhya Ramadas, ’09
I'm a fourth year associate at Bird Marella
in Los Angeles, and I was fortunate enough
to second-chair a trial in June and July of
2013 in San Jose, California, in Santa Clara
County Superior Court. The case involved
allegations by two individual plaintiffs of the
breach of a settlement agreement by our
client, a community bank here in Los Angeles
and the bank's CEO. The allegations included intentional and
negligent infliction of emotional distress,
which are far from standard allegations in a
breach of contract case. The government’s case now dwindled to
Mr. Martin having marijuana in his car. On
closing argument we hammered the point
that “having marijuana in your car” is not the
same as “possessing” marijuana. To establish
possession the government had to show
that Mr. Martin knew and intended to have
the marijuana in his car when he got in his
car and drove through the base. We pointed
out that this case is no different than any
other time marijuana is found in a car, when
the driver may share their car with a
spouse, roommate, friends, or children.
Without any statements, or even
circumstantial evidence (e.g., wrappers,
residue, strong odor, pipe, lighter), the
government proved that Mr. Martin “had”
marijuana in car, but could not prove beyond
a reasonable doubt that he “possessed” it.
The jury agreed.
At trial, I argued motions in limine, and
took three witnesses: I directed our medical
expert, cross-examined Plaintiffs' medical
expert (even getting to impeach him once
with a video of his deposition testimony),
and directed a former employee of our
client, who laid the groundwork for the jury
to understand who our client was.
Ultimately, we received a defense verdict
on all claims except one (libel) and most
important, prevailed on Plaintiffs' breach of
contract claim, which entitled our clients to
recoup their attorneys' fees. We were also
able to get the case against the bank's CEO
dismissed in a motion for non-suit, and are
now litigating post-trial motions.
Pictured above left, coach Spencer Pahlke, ’07, and Salah Hawkins, ’15, sit on a
level couch while the camera was at an angle, not the other way around.
Above right, Spencer Pahlke, Sara Haji, ’14, Vassi Illiadis, ’13, and Valerie Rose,
’10, posing inside the Santa Monica Superior Courthouse.
Left, Terry Murphy (AKA Salah Hawkins), attempting to pitch a bar employee on
his Human Resources consulting practice.
Bottom left, a lighthearted moment for our NCTC team, including Spencer Pahlke,
Tamila Gresham, ’15, James Unger, ’14, Margi Schierberl, ’15, and Salah
Hawkins, ’15.
Below right, it appears that Mr. Hawkins has acquired the means to continue the
celebration indefinitely.
Report inappropriate content