Student argues a winning case

Jackson Bell

Cerita Bickelmann loves talking and arguing.

So Cerita, a junior at John Burroughs High School, decided to join

the school’s mock-trial team last year at the encouragement of a


friend. Since then, her participation in the program has become a

compulsion for her.

“It’s kind of a need for me at this point,” the 16-year-old said.

"[The team] has sparked my interest so much that I decided I need to


do this for the rest of my life.”

That passion was noticed last week when Cerita was named the

Outstanding Pretrial Lawyer for the 2003 Los Angles County Mock Trial

Competition, making her the first member to win an award in the local

team’s four-year history.

As a pretrial lawyer, Cerita’s role was to argue whether evidence

should be admitted for the mock trial. The case was about a student

arrested on suspicion of selling stolen goods on campus.


The experience, she said, has given her valuable hands-on

experience on how the legal system works from the U.S. Supreme Court

down to local courts.

“It has built my self-esteem and given me a buffer to be able to

handle what will be thrown at me when I go to law school,” she said.

Rick Piper, the Burroughs history and government teacher who

sponsors the mock-trial team, credits Cerita’s win to the one-two

punch of her talent.


“She’s a drama student and also a strong academic student,” Piper

said. “It’s the best combination -- a smart kid who is a bit of an

actor or actress.”

Cerita agreed, saying there are several similarities in every

stage, no matter what the venue.

"[Theater] has definitely taught me to enunciate, speak loudly and

get over the fear of critical audiences,” she said. “And they’re both

telling stories, so I can incorporate the two aspects together.”