University High’s legal eagles soar to victory in OC Mock Trial, set sights on state finals

Students participating in mock trial
The University High School mock trial team celebrates their courtroom victory alongside Justice Thomas Delaney, the presiding judge.

There’s no appealing this courtroom ruling.

Showcasing their legal acumen and public speaking skills, students from University High School in Irvine have won the Orange County Mock Trial competition and will participate in next month’s California Mock Trial Finals. 

The countywide event, which ran from November through February, saw participation from 47 local high school teams and more than 1,000 students. The state finals are scheduled to take place in Los Angeles from March 22 through March 24.

This year’s competition was once again coordinated by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, Orange County, or CRF-OC. The non-profit educational organization is dedicated to enhancing civic literacy and leadership through interactive education programs that connect local teens with professionals and community leaders.

Mock trials are something of a signature program for CRF-OC. These simulated court cases help students gain a practical knowledge of the judicial system, enhance their analytical abilities and communication skills — and understand their roles and responsibilities within society. Mock trials are held in 36 California counties, engaging students in an academic exploration of law and justice.

This year’s fictional case, People v. Clark, involved the trial of Tobie Clark, an in-house counsel for Sunshine Medical Components, Inc., charged with the homicide of the company’s CEO, Kieran Sunshine. Case materials provided by the foundation challenged students to delve into complex legal issues as they developed strategies for both the prosecution and the defense.

Students participating in mock trial
Students from University High’s mock trial team demonstrate their courtroom prowess. The program was created by the Constitutional Rights Foundation in 1980 to equip young people with a deeper understanding of the judicial system while honing their analytical and communication skills.

In addition to the team competition, individual students were recognized in courtroom journalist and artist competitions. Winners from Valencia and Fountain Valley high schools took top honors in the courtroom artist category, while students from Irvine’s Portola High School and Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana excelled in the courtroom journalist competition. These first and second place winners will also advance to the state finals.

A Mock Trial Awards Ceremony for Orange County is scheduled to be held at the University of California, Irvine, in April. That event will feature California Supreme Court Justice Patricia Guerrero as the keynote speaker. Awards will include the Orator of the Year and the Jensen Scholarship, which supports first-generation college students participating in mock trial.

For more information on local mock trial events, visit