On March 28, Indio High School welcomed the California 4th Circuit Court of Appeals  as they held two appellate cases in front of 300 Indio High students.

Labeled “Project Outreach,” the state court program is designed to introduce students to the work of the judiciary branch of our state government. Justice Manuel Ramirez of the 4th Circuit and Gabriel Gutierrez, mock trial coordinator at Indio High School teamed up to bring this amazing experience to the students.

The Indio High Performing Arts center was transformed into a real court. So real that everybody had to go through metal detectors prior to entering. Riverside County Sheriff’s office swept the area and the presence of the court’s bailiff and marshalls contributed to the seriousness of the matters that the students were about to see.

Indio High School Calls Order in the Court

DSUSD School Board member and attorney Donald Griffith discusses the program with representatives of the court.

In attendance at the IHS PAC were Desert Sands Unified School District Superintendent Scott Bailey and school board members Linda Porras and Attorney Donald Griffith. They were joined by members of the Desert Bar Association and local judges.

Prior to the opening of court, the justices were treated to breakfast and a meet-and-greet with Indio High School’s law and justice pathway students. These students are enrolled in criminal law, criminal forensics, or are members of the schools mock trial team. Presiding over the proceedings was Justice Douglas P. Miller. Justice Miller assisted by Justices Marsha G. Slough, Frank J. Menetrez, and Michael J. Raphael.

Mock trial prosecution attorney junior Josue Zamora-Puente stated, “It was completely spectacular and life changing! I know now that I want to be an appellate court attorney.”

Once inside, the students were treated to two cases. People vs. Winston and People vs. Gutierrez. Both criminal cases involved questions about sentencing  and the ability to claim defense in an altercation. In each case, the lawyers for both defendants and the California Attorney General’s office presented their cases.

Indio High School Calls Order in the Court

A packed room of Indio High School students waiting to view, first hand, the courts in action.

“It was a really great experience,” said sophomore Jennifer Medina. “Everyone in criminal justice and everyone there benefited from seeing this.”

Mock trial defense attorney (student) Jade Heredia-Salas added, “This event opened doors for us. We got to meet experienced people in the career path I want to pursue.”

This was a completely new experience for the students. There were no witnesses, no objections, this was not an episode of Law and Order. Unlike in trial courts which could have the action of a courtroom drama, Appellate Court is simply answering a question about the law.

Indio High School was honored to host such an amazing experience for the students. This event showcased the amazing talents of the staff who put it together, the supportive leadership that helped bring about the event, and the Indio High students who showed that Rajah Pride can’t be denied.

Lead photo caption: Indio High School students and staff set out a welcoming breakfast buffet for their guests.

Image Sources

  • Discussing the Court Program: DSDUD
  • Awaiting Court Action at Indio High School: DSUSD
  • Indio High School Calls Order In The Court: DSUSD