Alumnus Writes Trial Problems
In his first year at Georgia State University College of Law, Randy Rich (J.D. ’92) made the mock trial team as a witness. He continued as an attorney during his second year and was elected president of the Student Trial Lawyers Association in his third. Twenty-one years later, the National Institute for Trial Advocacy published his book of case files.
The book contains three trial problems, which Rich began writing while helping run the William W. Daniel National Invitational Mock Trial Competition. Students use NITA books to practice and compete in mock trials.
“All the other NITA problems had been used before,” Rich says. “We didn’t want any school to have an unfair advantage, so I just wrote my own problems for, I think, maybe two or three years while I was running the tournament. It was kind of cool [to be] published by NITA.”
Rich, re-elected to a third term on the Gwinnett County State Court last year, has long since made the jump from mock trial to real court. However, he finds ways to use his expertise from what he describes as “the best learning experience I had in law school” in the workplace every day.
“Well, the rules of evidence is something that I really, really learned a lot in law school because of mock trial,” Rich says. “Learning the rules of evidence helped me a lot as a trial lawyer. Now, as a judge, everything I do all day long is making sure the rules of evidence are followed.”
Rich’s expertise hasn’t gone unnoticed in his professional field. When Georgia adopted the Federal Rules of Evidence in 2011, he was asked to teach a section about expert witnesses to the state’s trial lawyers. Lecturing on law, however, is not new to Rich. In addition to teaching at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, he has spoken to middle and high-schoolers on the legal system for nearly a decade.
“I want to do the best I can to educate students to stay out of the court system, and usually, that involves drugs and alcohol,” he says. “I feel like if they knew more about the consequences of what they were getting involved with and how it was going to lead to lifelong problems for them, maybe they’d make different decisions.”
His proactive work didn’t stop in the classroom. After the 2005 shooting of Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, Rich instituted a videoconference system in his courtroom for safety purposes. The same year, in an attempt to have jurors pay better attention during the “most boring” part of a trial — jury instructions — Rich became the first Georgia judge to use a PowerPoint presentation to better keep the jurors’ attention.
Rich credits two men at Georgia State Law with mentoring him, Professor Paul Milich and Tom Jones, who taught and coached him, respectively. To underscore their value to his professional growth, Rich dedicated his recent book of case files to them.
“If you have a good mentor, you can follow in their footsteps and sort of learn by what they do and how they act and how they behave,” he says. “I was able to try a couple cases as a law student with Tom, when he was with the DA’s office. It was just an unbelievable experience to be able to learn like that from somebody who’d been a lawyer for 20 years, in the courtroom and just absorb everything that you could to try to improve. I think Georgia State is fortunate [to have them.]”