A new course at the University of La Verne College of Law is teaching students the art of jury selection.
The pilot course, funded through Lewis Family Community Grants, gives law students a chance to witness jury selection in real criminal cases and then practice in mock cases.
“Jury selection is difficult because it requires lawyers to engage in several complex activities simultaneously. In a very short period of time, lawyers must establish a relationship with prospective jurors, introduce themselves, their clients, and their clients’ case, and begin to educate prospective jurors. Lawyers also need to learn whatever they can about each individual prospective juror in the pool,” said Professor Placido Gomez, who taught the course.
The class is one of numerous pilot programs created through a partnership between the law school and the Office of Civic and Community Engagement. The pilot courses bring the law school and the people it serves closer through innovation in the law school’s curriculum.
The law school introduced the jury selection course in the spring semester. Ten upper class students enrolled in the class, and after several weeks studying the law associated with jury selection, students focused on techniques.
Students observed attorneys David Goldstein and Jason Anderson, who presented part of a jury selection and then discussed it with the students; retired judge Martha Bellinger presided over the exercise.
“Selecting a jury is an important part of any case,” said Arya Shamuilian, a second-year student enrolled in the course. “To be victorious in any case you must lay the proper foundation, and jury selection is the foundation for a successful case.”
“Next year, I hope to get the students downtown, sitting as second chairs helping to select juries in actual cases,” said Gomez. “The students are ready.”
The Lewis Family Community Grants were established by the Lewis family through the Office of Civic and Community Engagement to enhance the University’s curriculum with a focus on bringing students closer to the community.
“Lawyers serve the community in many ways,” Gomez said. “But primarily they represent people in court. We are moving students beyond the classroom, into the courtroom.”
Additional classes in the planning stage are Immigration Consequences of Criminal Activity and Spanish for Lawyers. The project will also partner with the San Bernardino District Attorney and Public Defender Offices to develop externships and conduct a feasibility study regarding a Criminal Defense Clinic.
“We have some work to do,” said College of Law Dean Gilbert Holmes. “But we are off to a strong start, and we appreciate the support of the Lewis family. The Lewis family has been invaluable to the University of La Verne and the community we serve by supporting innovation and community engagement.”