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College of Law joins Barrett Summer Scholars program

June 18, 2008

Gifted middle school students from across Arizona are coming to law school for the first time this summer, as part of a residential program conducted by ASU’s Office of the Vice President for University Student Initiatives and Barrett, the Honors College.

Students in the Barrett Summer Scholars program will have the opportunity to take a mock trial course, “Jury Trial Advocacy: Perspectives on Legal Persuasion,” on the Barrett campus and in the high-tech courtroom at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. The three-week, residential program for exiting eighth- and ninth-graders began June 8 and will continue through June 27.

All 150 students, from as far away as the Navajo Reservation and southern Arizona, will be enrolled in a condensed version of Barrett’s “Human Event” course, a humanities class which Barrett college students take as freshmen. In addition, they will choose from electives in four fields: engineering, biology, computer digital animation and law.

The students will hear from heavy hitters in those fields – retired U.S. Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor spoke to the first scholars group two years ago – and take field trips to see what they learn in the classroom put into practice in the real world.

“The goal is to introduce gifted students and their parents to the Barrett life, and to help them become comfortable in the Barrett environment,” says Jo Ann Martinez, coordinator of ASU’s University Student Initiatives, where the Barrett Summer Scholars program is housed.

The law course was added this year at the suggestion of past students in the summer program, Martinez says. Enrollees will receive basic and advanced instruction in public speaking, rhetoric and oral persuasion and will prepare to participate in two full-length mock trials. They will learn to perform effective cross-examination, to tell stories through direct examination and opening statements, and to sway and inflame the passions of listeners during closing arguments.

The course also includes interaction with trial evidence and will cover topics such as hearsay, relevance and character.

“We know that many bright students aspire from a young age to become lawyers or to get into the law field, and we want to make sure they get a real and direct exposure to the field and help them determine if this is the right field for them,” Martinez says.

The courses are taught by ASU faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students. The law course will be taught by Jimmy Cool, a second-year law student who has had extensive experience with mock trial in high school, as an undergraduate and now at the College of Law.

“I’ve been doing mock trial for 11 or 12 years, and I’ve been coaching undergraduates for two to three years,” says Cool, who has won two major mock trials, was a finalist in a third and has been honored by the American Mock Trial Association several times.