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About Literacy & the Law

“It is a fascinating case … and should be a fine educational experience.”

Anthony Kennedy
Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court

Literacy and the Law: Mock Trials to Meet the Common Core is offered through California State University San Marcos with the support of the Superior Court of San Diego and the Literacy and the Law Advisory Team. Units of study are provided for teachers including all materials needed to actively engage students in learning activities. Through the visual and performing arts and language arts lessons, students gain an understanding of the Rule of Law and the judicial branch of government. Each unit includes an exciting mock or moot trial, and calls on students to write arguments as jurors, judges or attorneys. Lesson plans build sequentially and include recommended literature, PowerPoints, handouts, and primary sources.

A student plays the role of attorney in a Literacy & the Law mock trial

A student plays the role of attorney in a Literacy & the Law mock trial

Units have been designed for grades K-8; however, these free resources for teachers have been field-tested in diverse classroom settings at different grade levels. Creative teachers report that depending upon the needs of their students, modifications are easily made to meet the needs of all students and grade levels. In addition, judges and attorneys on the Advisory Team have vetted the materials. These multidisciplinary project-based units offer motivating mock trials related to current events, historical events, and/or conflicts within literature commonly read in California schools.

Use your imagination as you explore the detailed units. You will see many opportunities for critical and divergent thinking, and your students will be highly motivated to engage in these real-world scenarios! We encourage you to spread the word regarding this terrific resource, and to contact us with questions and/or feedback.

“I LOVE the No David! activities and do it every year since I came to your awesome workshop. I’ve shared it with other teachers at my district!”

–An elementary school teacher

Meet the Project Director

Dr. Fran Chadwick

Dr. Chadwick is the Project Director for Literacy and the Law: Mock Trials to Meet the CCSS. She has been a classroom teacher, administrator, and associate professor of social studies education at
California State University San Marcos. Dr. Chadwick served as an educational consultant to the Judicial Council of California, and directed professional development opportunities for educators statewide. She has been recognized for her service on statewide commissions to advance the understanding of civics and the judicial branch of government.

Meet the Advisory Team

The Hon. David J. Danielsen

The Hon. David J. DanielsenJudge Danielsen, presides at the San Diego Superior Court, has served as Presiding Judge, and has been a judge in San Diego since 1990. He has had broad Criminal and Civil Trial experience. Judge Danielsen is a former President of the California Judges Association and a frequent presenter for judicial education statewide. He speaks often on Realignment, Evidence Based Practices, Proposition 47, Felony Sentencing, Plea Bargaining and Three Strikes.

Jose Flores

Jose FloresMr. Flores has been a social studies teacher at Brawley Union High School for 24 years. He was been department head for 20 years. He has also been on the California K-12 Civic Learning Task Force as an advisor. Mr. Flores has been a leader in his district, and been honored with state and nation-wide civic achievement awards. He is currently serving a 4 year term with the California Department of Education as an Instructional Quality Commissioner.

Deborah Genzer

Deborah GenzerMs. Genzer is Lead Staff to the Chief Justice’s Civic Learning Initiative. She is a graduate of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where she co-founded Volunteer Emory.  She has been a high school teacher and administrator, as a well as a consultant on city-wide, state, and national youth service learning. Ms. Genzer was the Executive Director of Youth Service California and co-led the California Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools.

David Gordon

David GordonMr. Gordon is the Superintendent of the Sacramento (CA) County Office of Education. He holds a B.A. from Brandeis University and an Ed.M. and Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration from Harvard University. He has served on the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education, the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Education Excellence, as an Associate in Education at Harvard, and a visiting scholar at Stanford University. He has presented at the White House, before the U.S. Congress and the California state legislature.

Carol Kocivar

Carol KocivarMs. Kocivar is past President of the California State PTA and served on the California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning. She has worked as an attorney, journalist, and ombudsperson and is the parent of two children who graduated from the San Francisco public schools. She volunteered in her children’s schools teaching the First Amendment.  Ms. Kocivar is an editorial contributor at Ed100.org. and hosts Looking at Education on KALW 91.7 FM.

Lynne Lasry

Lynne LawryMs. Lasry is a trial lawyer, litigator, mediator and arbitrator who has tried many complex criminal and civil, and federal and state cases. She has been recognized several times as one of the top SuperLawyers in San Diego; USD School of Law honored Ms. Lasry with their highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award, and recognized her as a Woman of Impact. Ms. Lasry has served as a prosecutor with the United States Attorney’s Office in San Diego, and currently is a partner with Sandler, Lasry, Laube, Byer & Valdez, LLP.

Robyn Litt

Robyn LittMs. Litt is a Teacher on Special Assignment with Encinitas Union School District.  A National Board Certified Educator, Ms. Litt has promoted civic learning in the classroom for over 10 years as a: classroom teacher, coach, mentor, advocate, and California On My Honor Institute Teacher-Leader and Director. She has piloted Literacy and the Law units with sixth grade students, partnered with state and local courts, judicial officers, bar associations, and universities (CSUSM and USD Law School) to empower teachers and students in building and sustaining a strong civic awareness.

The Hon. Judith McConnell

The Hon. Judith McConnellJustice McConnell is the Administrative Presiding Justice for the California Court of Appeals, Fourth Appellate District. She has been a judge for over 38 years and has dedicated her professional career to improving the courts and increasing public awareness about the role of the courts in our democracy. Justice McConnell chaired the California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning and currently is working to implement the many recommendations designed to return civic education to our schools.

Julie Myres

Julie MyresMs. Myres is the Program Manager for the San Diego Superior Court Community Outreach and Education Program. She developed and manages a variety of programs designed to enhance understanding of the California justice system. These programs engage students from elementary through college and law school, and include learning activities for community members and visitors worldwide. Ms. Myres has been honored with a number of awards for her service to the community, and the facilitation of high quality judicial outreach programs.

The Hon. John Owens

The Hon. John OwensJudge Owens serves as a Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Previously he was a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP and a federal prosecutor for more than eleven years. He graduated first in his class from Stanford Law School and served as a law clerk for Judge Wallace of the Ninth Circuit and Justice Ginsburg of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Peter Paccone

Peter PacconeMr. Paccone is a San Marino High School social studies teacher with 28 years of teaching experience. He has been recognized by the California Council for the Social Studies as “Teacher of the Year” for 2015, and has received numerous awards for his contributions to civic education and the creative use of instructional technology to connect his students with the outside world. Under his coaching, the mock trial teams from Mr. Paccone’s school are regularly recognized for their excellence.

The Hon. Therese M. Stewart

The Hon. Therese M. StewartJustice Stewart serves on the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District. Before joining the court, she served for 12 years as Chief Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, managing a large public law office and litigating groundbreaking cases that established the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. Justice Stewart served as the first openly gay President of the Bar Association of San Francisco in 1999, and in that role co-founded the School-To-College program to encourage high school students to obtain a college education.

Dr. Laurie Stowell

Dr. Laurie StowellDr. Stowell has been a professor of literacy at California State University San Marcos since 1992. Prior to that, she taught middle school for eleven years. She teaches literacy courses in the middle level and elementary credential program, children’s literature and writing, and courses in the master’s program. Dr. Stowell also founded (in 2001) and directs the San Marcos Writing Project, one of over 200 writing project sites statewide that provide professional development for local teachers.

Meet the Dream Team

The extremely professional and dedicated teachers listed below are part of our “Dream Team”. All of our “Dream Team” teachers have field-tested our mock trial curricula with the students in their classrooms. “Dream Team” teachers have added their ideas, critiqued, and revised original curricula based on their assessments and the needs of their students. Without the authentic work of such a fabulous group of teachers, we would not be able to offer such strong curricula.  A huge THANK YOU, to our Dream Team! We invite other interested teachers to join us by sending an email from the front page, using Contact Us.

Pam Chirichigno

Rockdale VAPA Magnet School, LA Unified School District
Unit: No David!
Grade Level: 4th/5th
Ms. Pam Chirichigno teaches at a magnet school for the visual and performing arts. She had the opportunity to blend drama and visual arts with ELA, History Social Science and Civics in a way which delighted her students and expanded their learning! Ms. Chirichigno has presented the unit, No David! to a team of teachers dedicated to creating project-based units within her district.

Meredith Mills

El Camino Creek Elementary, Encinitas Union School District
Unit: No David!
Grade Level: 5th
Ms. Meredith Mills took her class to the Superior Court to present No David, determine a verdict, and speak with a judge. Working with Ms. Robyn Litt at the same site, they were honored by receiving the following awards for their implementation of Literacy and the Law units: Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Educator Award in Civics, The Civic Learning Award of Excellence awarded by Tani-Cantil Sakauye, the Chief Justice of California Courts, The California School Board Association Civic Leadership Award, and the National School Board Association MAGNA Award, “Honorable Mention”. Ms. Mills is a leader in the cause for her school to become a “Justice School”, developing lessons and units to infuse the understanding of the Rule of Law from kindergarten through grade six!

Janelle Small

Rodriguez Elementary School, San Diego Unified School District
Unit: No David!
Grade Level: 2nd
Ms. Janell Small has been extremely dedicated to working with the established curricula for No David! She has served as a great resource and advisor in adapting the unit to make it developmentally appropriate for her 2nd grade students in a highly diverse classroom.

Stephen Keilly

Monarch School, San Diego County Office of Education
Unit: No David!
Grade Level: 4th
Mr. Stephen Keilly, a San Diego Teacher of the Year, works with homeless students at Monarch School. After engaging students in the classroom through the No David! unit, he took his class on a trolley ride to the court to perform their trial, view felony arraignments, and participate in a tour.

Robyn Litt

El Camino Creek Elementary, Encinitas Union School District
Unit: No David!  Journey to Topaz
Grade Level: 6th
Ms. Robyn Litt took her class to the Court of Appeals to present the Journey to Topaz program, where the Administrative Justice, Judith McConnell played the role of the Supreme Court Chief Justice in their fictitious court case. Ms. Litt was instrumental in the development of Journey to Topaz, adding arts components as well as defined argument writing techniques. Working with Ms. Mills at the same site, they were honored by receiving the following awards for the implementation of Literacy and the Law units: Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Educator Award in Civics, The Civic Learning Award of Excellence awarded by Tani-Cantil Sakauye, the Chief Justice of California Courts, The California School Board Association Civic Leadership Award, and the National School Board Association MAGNA Award, “Honorable Mention”. Since receiving these awards and the implementation of these units with her sixth grade students, Ms. Litt has been appointed as a Teacher on Special Assignment in her district and includes Literacy and the Law units in the professional development programs she offers. In addition, she has presented the program at the county level to history/social science teachers.

Jose Flores

Brawley High School, Brawley Unified School District
Unit: Free Exercise: A Case in Point
Grade Level: 10-12th
Mr. Jose Flores was instrumental in leading his school to implement civics programs two separate years!  Brawley Unified was recognized with the Civic Award of Distinction in 2013 for civic related bilingual programs, and was recognized again in 2014 through the Civic Award of Excellence for the growth of the same program.  Mr. Flores engaged his students in the Free Exercise unit and was able to make it even more relevant due to the high influx of Sikh’s in their community. He has shared the Free Exercise unit with colleagues at his site, and has promoted the use of No David! to other grade levels to generate enthusiasm for learning about civics through the judicial branch. Mr. Flores provided much needed feedback on this unit at the earliest stages. He continues to successfully advocate for civics on a community-wide basis in Brawley, Imperial County.

Michelle Clark

High Tech High Charter School, San Marcos
Unit: Free Exercise: A Case in Point
Grade Level: 10th
Ms. Michelle Clark’s school was also a recipient of a Civic Award of Excellence in 2014.   The award, presented by the California Chief Justice, recognized its Government and Politics Club, and creative approach to teaching U.S. history and American literature through humanities.  Ms. Clark provided terrific feedback on the Free Exercise unit from the voice of her students. It was especially beneficial to receive suggestions from Ms. Clark from the the beginning stages of the development of this unit.

Peter Paccone

San Marino High School, San Marino Unified School District
Unit: Free Exercise: A Case in Point
Grade Level: 10-12th
Mr. Peter Paccone is a champion of civics and history social science at his school site and throughout the state.  His school received the Civic Award of Excellence from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California in 2013.  Mr. Paccone took Free Exercise to a new level, infusing technology to bring the court into the classroom, and even reaching out to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy about the project! His students are blogging about their opinions in the case, and have worked with judges to present their arguments orally. Mr. Paccone has written several articles promoting Literacy and the Law and other effective approaches for organizations such as Edutopia, Ted Ed, and has shared his creative ideas and units (including Free Exercise at the professional statewide conference, California Council for the Social Studies.

Susan Atkinson

Herbert Green Middle School, Mother Lode Union School District
Unit: Free Exercise: A Case in Point
Grade Level: 8th
Ms. Susan Atkinson provided excellent feedback on her student’s successes and challenges with this unit from a middle school perspective. Her students benefited from the use of a team approach, as they delved into this unit in their English and History Social Science classes at the same time! This was an excellent method, especially when time is one of our most critical challenges as teachers!