CHS Mock Trial coach makes a run for San Bernardino County judge

Melissa Rodriguez served as a coach for Colton High’s Mock Trial team for the last decade and now she is seeking election to seat 17 in the San Bernardino County Superior Court


Courtesy Melissa Rodriguez

Melissa Rodriguez (bottom row, third from right) served as a coach for the CHS Mock Trial team from 2011-2020. She stands her with the team outside the San Bernardino County courthouse.

Melissa Rodriguez has been a prosecutor in San Bernardino County for the last 17 years, and now she is taking a huge step in her career by running for a judge seat in the Superior Court.

“I’m not a politician in any way, shape, or form,” said the 52-year old lawyer.

Rodriguez has been a prosecuting attorney in San Bernardino County for 17 years; now she is running for seat 17 in the County Superior Court. (Courtesy Melissa Rodriguez)

While Rodriguez has served the county as a prosecutor for 17 years, for the last decade she has worked with Colton students involved with our award-winning Mock Trial team. She got involved with the program during the 2011-2012 school year after seeing a position was opened. This put her in touch with Colton English teacher and Mock Trial adviser, Lucy Leyva.

Leyva loved working with Rodriguez, attributing much of the team’s success to her hard-work and dedication to the students. “The Colton High Mock Trial team could not have thrived,” Leyva said. The two developed a close working relationship. Leyva believes Rodriguez is “simply the best and has helped our Mock Trial team more than I can ever articulate.”

Students loved working with Rodriguez as well, as both a coach and a mentor. “Her voice and presence is strong and absolutely fearless,” said Julyssa Diaz, former Mock Trial student. “Melissa’s guidance and coaching was one of the guiding pillars that helped my younger self find confidence.”

For Rodriguez, working with Colton High’s students was about more than just the law. She wanted to give kids an opportunity to see what waited for them after graduation. Rodriguez herself was raised in a blue-collar family in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and the subject of college was never addressed by her parents. She eventually became the first member of her family to attend college after moving to California, earning her Associates at College of the Desert before getting her Bachelor’s at National University and law degree from the California Western School of Law. She did all this while being a mother.

It was with this hard-won experience that Rodriguez was able to inspire and support the Mock Trial team. “It is important for them to know that how you were raised doesn’t define you,” shared Rodriguez. “Only you can define you.”

That experience included working as a prosecutor. During her career, she has prided herself on focusing on prosecuting crimes against children. “My entire career has been victim centered,” she said.

Her decision to run for an open seat on the Superior Court bench came as a result of this sense of justice. She was involved in the prosecution of the man who murdered a Fallbrook family in 2010, successfully arguing for a conviction on four counts of murder. When one of the defense attorneys representing Charles “Chase” Merritt in that case decided to run for seat 17, Rodriguez felt compelled to challenge, believing that the defense attorney was not properly suited to handle victim-centered cases throughout the county. “The trial got contentious and personal,” Rodriguez said. “Your job is to attack evidence, not prosecutors.”

With that in mind, Rodriguez and her family are looking forward to the outcome of Tuesday’s election. She intends to bring the same level of dedication and passion to a judge seat as she brought to the students in Colton’s Mock Trial program.