St. Mary’s Law School Featured in New National Podcast

If you’re one of those with a low opinion of lawyers, a new podcast might change your mind.

Class action“, a new 12-episode podcast debuting Tuesday, follows law students from four schools across the United States – including the St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio – through mock trial competitions that help train them for real-world courtroom practice. Other teams featured are from Brooklyn Law School in New York, Knudson School of Law at the University of South Dakota, and Dillard University in New Orleans.

Director and co-producer Kevin Huffman said a year of closely following students through the highs and lows of preparing for the legal profession has given him “faith in the future, that there is very hard-working young people, who are not only not doing it for the money, but they really, legitimately want to help people.

Among those students is Andy Vizcarra, a Chicago-born first-generation American who spent several years in Odessa before her family moved to San Antonio to follow her mother Rosa’s medical career.

Vizcarra, 24, said she wanted to be a lawyer since she was nine. She said her father Elizandro’s sense that the law can protect citizens from injustice was a strong motivation, and the 2009 nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court, demonstrating that a young Latina like she may be represented in the highest court in the land, may have also played a role.

St. Mary’s mock trial team included Vizcarra, Jasmin Olguin, Mariela Encinas and Cole Davila, who team coach AJ Bellido de Luna says brings diversity to the national mock trial competition circuit and helps ensure a better legal future for Latinos in the United States.

Andy Vizcarra, a graduate of St. Mary’s Law School, was inspired to become a lawyer after the 2009 nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court. Credit: Courtesy/Andy Vizcarra

Vizcarra agrees. “Representation is important,” she said emphatically. She said she was grateful that St. Mary’s was chosen for the podcast, in part because of what Bellido de Luna describes as its 70% to 80% Latino student population, but also because at the Nationally, the number of Latino lawyers is “surprisingly low.”

At the climax of Episode 7, titled “Don’t Mess With Texas,” Vizcarra gets more specific saying, “1.3% of lawyers in the United States are Latino women. A. Indicate. Three. It is a very small percentage, very small.

During the episode, she and her teammates learn that lack of representation can have adverse effects.

The team is immersed in the “Best in Texas” mock trial competition. As Olguin and Encinas plead their case on a video conferencing platform, the bailiff confuses the two women with each other and repeatedly interrupts them for clarification. Huffman said the usher claimed to be asking for clarification because of competition rules that prohibited one person from playing two roles, but Bellido de Luna and St. Mary’s students suggested the usher’s confusion was rooted in bias.

Although Bellido de Luna said his team was clearly better than their competitors that day, they did not advance to the quarter-finals.

In the episode, podcast host Katie Phang adamantly describes the incident as “racism” at worst, or at least implicit prejudice against the two women.

Olguin reacted like a lawyer aware of her role in defending others.

“It just scares me that it will affect me in the future when I represent a client,” she said. “I don’t want to go up there and… people don’t listen to what I say. What if we had the best case, and they looked at me differently because of my appearance? Like maybe they’ll look at me as less and they’ll see… this… other lawyer as superior because [of the] color of their skin. And that’s what scares me. »

Vizcarra said she firmly believes the team would have won the entire competition if this incident had not happened.

Even after being knocked down, the episode and series recover to chart new triumphs. Episode 7 ends with Vizcarra and her parents loudly celebrating El Grito, Mexico’s Independence Day, at their family’s Frida Mexican restaurant and bar in Stone Oak, where she worked to support herself while in school. by right.

In a later episode, the St. Mary’s team wins a major victory in the national trial competition, and in the series’ penultimate episode, Vizcarra reaches a professional high by arguing a real case before a real judge and Bexar County Court jury.

Vizcarra promises that the “plot thickens” in all sorts of ways as she goes on in court, but she’s out of that moment, and the team building and leadership demands of the mock trial competition, more determined than ever to bring its skills to clients who need them.

And, she says, she will do it here in Bexar County. After completing her 10-week bar exam, she said, “I’m going to be a litigator. I hope to start in the district attorney’s office and become a prosecutor. …And then we’ll see where we go from there.

Huffman co-produced Class Action with colleague Lisa Gray for production company Sound Argument and iHeart Media, and the 12-episode series is available on major podcast platforms and the iHeart Media website.

Jon J. Epps