Voir Dire with the Walker County DA

This past Wednesday, the LEAP Ambassadors hosted the District Attorney’s office, which sponsored a simulated voir dire, to help students better understand the jury selection process. Speaking to student participants from diverse majors, attorneys Stuart Hughes, Malori Martin, Phil Faselar, Taylor Carter helped the students understand the entire jury selection process. With this demonstration and the attorneys’ recaps, were able to see firsthand how voir dire factors into the trial process.


We acted as a group of potential jurors three separate times, each time learning a different attorney’s approach and method of getting to know a jury. An attorney’s job during this time is to find the type of juror they want to serve during the trial by asking broad questions that are relevant to the case. Members took on different personas and, to the full extent of their abilities, tried to answer questions as 56-year-old school district employees, 28-year-old graduate employees, and 45-year-old gas station cashiers–biographies provided to them by the LEAP Center. Members enjoyed the challenge of thinking on their feet and answering questions in character.

After the final voir dire, PLS members were able to ask questions about law school, learn about the different positions our guests held throughout their careers, and inquire about internships. Overall, it was an eye-opening experience for everyone involved. We saw a more in-depth view of the trial process and were able to offer a practice opportunity for the DA’s office coming out of a post Covid-19 world. Thank you to the Walker County District Attorney Office for coming to Sam Houston State University and teaching us about the voir dire process.

Mock Law Class: Version 2021

With a random number generator in hand, Val Ricks, Professor at South Texas College of Law, introduced himself to 16 pre-law students who registered to attend a virtual Mock Law School class on March 3, 2021. The class was taught by Professor Val Ricks, whose qualifications include a Juris Doctorate from Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, legal work as an associate attorney with Kirton & McConkle, and almost 25 years teaching at South Texas College of Law. The Mock Law School class is a unique partnership between SHSU’s Center for Law, Engagement, And Politics and South Texas College of Law.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, South Texas College of Law, Professor Val Ricks, Pre-Law

The students came to class prepared; they had already read and briefed the case which involved a contract dispute between the singer Mariah Carey and her stepfather. After Professor Ricks recited the facts of the case, he used the random number generator to select a student to discuss the legal issue of the case. Employing the Socratic Method of questioning, Professor Ricks skillfully led the pre-law students through the analysis of the legal issues in the case, the rule of law, and how the court applied the rule of law.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, South Texas College of Law, Professor Val Ricks, Pre-Law

In evaluating the Class, several students commented that the Mock Law School Class gave them an opportunity to experience the real feel of law school while still being an undergraduate. Jessica Cuevas was grateful for the “amazing opportunity for a glance into the future of how my law school experience may be like regarding study habits and classroom settings. Attending the Mock Law Class solidified my decision to attend law school.”

In working through the logic of the Mariah Carey case, Professor Ricks homed in on some specific word choices in the opinion and mentioned synonyms for the legal terms. In this way, Ricks alluded to how language and law are closely linked.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, South Texas College of Law, Professor Val Ricks, Pre-Law

After discussing the case, Professor Ricks asked some thought-provoking questions regarding the policies underlying the rule of law in the case and whether the court reached the correct result. In addition, like a question on a final law school exam, Ricks presented a hypothetical set of facts and asked the class to analyze the issue of the hypothetical based on the facts. Then, using the Mariah Carey case as precedent, he asked how a court would rule on the issue in the hypothetical case and what reasoning the court would use.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, South Texas College of Law, Professor Val Ricks, Pre-Law

Professor Ricks followed up with some valuable advice for the pre-law students. He explained that law school is about studying old settled law so that as a practicing attorney, you have confidence in applying the law correctly to new fact patterns presented by clients. He suggested that students in law school take the Socratic questioning by law professors in class as a challenge and an opportunity to have a conversation with the professor. Ricks emphasized that the process of learning the law and applying it is more important than the specific legal cases. Yvette Mendoza commented, “ I loved this last part of the class because I was able to ask the law professor questions about law school.”

Professor Ricks advised the students of the importance of clearing everything off their calendar and devoting time to law school, especially in the first year of law school. Ruona Odharo asked a question about paying for law school. Ricks pointed out that South Texas College of Law strives to keep tuition as low as possible.

In response to Yvette Mendoza’s question on whether a student needs to go to a prestigious law school to get a good legal job, Ricks said that every law school teaches the same material using the Socratic Method, and that “excellence depends on you.” A great lawyer can come from any law school.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, South Texas College of Law, Professor Val Ricks, Pre-Law