Beloved Mock Trial Coach Coley Fannin Retires

By John Kalil, Sports Editor

// When thinking about the law and lawyers, images of complicated procedure and legalese come to mind. For this reason, lawyers must often go to law school for three years, and pass the bar exam to practice law. How, then, are high school students at Acalanes able to do so well in communicating legal arguments while competing in Mock Trial? For the past five years, the answer to that question has come largely in the form of coach Coleman “Coley” Fannin.

One of Fannin’s greatest strengths as a coach was exactly that: helping his team articulate their positions in various trials.

“I’ve learned how to pick apart an opposing team’s argument, and as he (Fannin) likes to say, make noise like a lawyer,” senior mock trial participant Hallie Fang-Horvath said.

According to Fannin, one of his favorite parts about coaching mock trial was teaching kids how to communicate the legal arguments and issues that were involved in various scenarios.

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Courtesy Joseph Schottland

“He really has a natural way with the students,” history teacher and mock trial coach Joe Schottland said. “They sit on every word that he says because they can see the passion in what he believes in and the way he expresses himself.”

Fannin served in Contra Costa County as a lawyer for 13 years, a judge for 16 years, and a mediator for 18 years in his career in law.

“No matter what court we went into, he seemed to know everybody. The bailiff knows him, the judges know him, the people who are scoring attorneys know him,” Schottland said.

According to Fannin, his career in law was important in becoming a mock trial coach.

“It was essential, because mock trial is a highly competitive way of communicating legal subject matter. My background helped with that,” Fannin said.

Fannin got into coaching mock trial five years ago because he has had four grandchildren go to Acalanes, the last of which is senior Molly Mudgett.

According to senior mock trial participant Mary Kleinsmith, another one of Fannin’s skills was his ability to teach students about how to adjust their arguments according to what position they are in.

“I’ve learned to look at issues from the perspective of the prosecution and a defense attorney,” Kleinsmith said.

In addition to being an excellent technical coach of legalese, Fannin made mock trial practices fun with his own special flair.

“We all loved the jelly beans that he supplied at every meeting,” Fang-Horvath said. “And at each competition, he would rock a fun sequined tie.”

Cooperation and teamwork between the mock trial participants was something that Fannin emphasized.

“Mock trial is the ultimate team sport. Every team member is individually scored, so if anyone doesn’t do well, it’s likely that the team doesn’t do well,” Fannin said.

For many mock trial participants who had Fannin as a coach, he left an indelible mark on their skills not only in the courtroom, but in other areas as well.

“He helped me build confidence and poise, which I’ll use in every aspect of life,” Fang-Horvath said.

“We’re going to miss him terribly and I’m going to miss him personally very much,” Schottland said.

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