Professor Cynthia E. Jones teaches Evidence, Criminal Law, and Criminal Procedure at the American University Washington College of Law. She also serves as the Director of the law school’s Stephen S. Weinstein Trial Advocacy Program. Professor Jones received the prestigious American University Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2011, and received the “Teaching with Technology Award” from the American University Center for Teaching Excellence. Annually, in her honor, the Washington College of Law awards the Professor Cynthia E. Jones Scholarship to an aspiring public defender. Professor Jones has written numerous articles and co-authored publications in the areas of criminal law, wrongful convictions, criminal discovery reform, cash bail reform, and eliminating racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Professor Jones has also produced two educational short films, “Fighting Evidence with Evidence,” and “Bail in America: The Color of Pretrial Justice.” Professor Jones also has developed a series of interactive, multi-media lectures on the Federal Rules of Evidence that are well-received at federal judicial training conferences and numerous other regional and national bench and bar conferences across the country. Prof. Jones is the President of The Sentencing Project Board of Directors and Chair of the Board of the Civil Rights Corps. Professor Jones served as a staff attorney at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS), and later served as both the Executive Director of PDS and the Chair of the PDS Board of Trustees. Professor Jones is also the former Deputy Director of the District of Columbia Pretrial Services Agency.
Associate Director of Advocacy Training and Student Competitions
Joseph Lester is the Associate Director of Advocacy Training and Student Competitions at American University Washington College of Law. In this role, he oversees ADR, Moot Court, Mock Trial, and Transactional competitions and competition teams. Before coming to WCL, Lester was the Hiram H. Lazar Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at Southern Illinois University School of Law. Lester previously taught evidence, criminal procedure, gaming law, and trial practice at Faulkner University’s Jones School of Law. During his twenty-year tenure at Faulkner, he also served as the school’s Director of Advocacy Programs for more than a decade, overseeing Moot Court, Mediation, and Trial Advocacy. During this time, he coached more than 30 teams to regional championships and qualified 20 teams to national finals. He also created and ran national trial competition the Mockingbird Challenge.
An active member of the national law school advocacy community, Lester maintains a website to track national trial competition results, which are then used to formulate the Trial Competition Performance Rankings. Lester has been a trial consultant for a wide variety of cases in state and federal court. Author of Thomson Reuters’ Alabama Practice, Alabama Evidence series, he also serves on the Alabama Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee for the Alabama Rules of Evidence. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and received his law degree from the University of Kentucky.
Brittany Gail Thomas
Assistant Director of Student Competition Teams
Brittany Gail Thomas, affectionately known as “BGT,” is the Assistant Director of Student Competition Teams. Brittany graduated cum laude from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication & Culture, with a focus on Legal Communication, before attending WCL. Brittany took WCL by storm and became a superstar during her 3 years (2009-2012) as a student. While a student here, she received the highest grade designation at the Alexandria Public Defender Externship, Criminal Defense Theory and Practice, and Criminal Justice Clinic – Defense. Beyond recognition for course work, she received many awards including the Black Women’s Bar Association of Suburban Maryland’s Book Scholarship, the J. Franklyn Bourne Scholarship, the Mooers Trophy Award for excellence in Trial Advocacy, and the Peter M. Cicchino Public Service Award. During her second and third year as an WCL student, Brittany was a member of the Mock Trial Honor Society and competed at 4 national competitions receiving individual awards for “Best Advocate” and “Perfect Score.” Not only did Brittany participate with mock trial, but she was the staff writer for the American Jurist, the Community Service Chair for the Black Law Students Association, and a Teaching Fellow for the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project. BGT is truly one of a kind and extremely well-rounded.
Upon graduating from WCL, Brittany took her talent, advocacy skills, and passion for justice into the courtroom to defend and represent indigent individuals at The Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn, New York. After 3 years in Brooklyn, BGT moved back to the area and joined the Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore, Maryland. During her time with Legal Aid and the OPD, Brittany represented an array of individuals and improved her trial skills even further. She also proved to be a true mentor and teacher in those roles as she helped provide CLE and Advocacy Training Sessions and was the Subcommittee Chair of the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Committee.
At WCL, BGT mentors, coaches, and trains future advocates by combining her prior experience serving the community as a public defender and experience in trial advocacy. BGT teaches both civil and criminal trial advocacy courses; trains mock trial students for competition season; manages and advises both competition team students and coaches; conducts briefings for judges and evaluators at hosted competitions; counsels students about their career paths; manages student competition team coaches; and provides trainings and bootcamps for students and coaches.
In her role, BGT created and advises both the Joint Leadership Board and Diversity Advisory Committee. Both innovative initiatives focus on strengthening the collaboration between honor societies, enhancing the presence of the societies, and empowering students to affect change in their societies and in the WCL community as a whole.
BGT is also an active member of the advocacy community. She has been a participant on various panels and committees, as well as led training sessions. In 2019, she wrote the case file, State v. Jordan Pratt, for the prestigious Tournament of Champions, a national mock trial competition. This case file was successfully tried by the nation’s best mock trial programs and yielded a rare 50/50 split for prosecution and defense wins.
BGT also participates on various panels focused on topics, including diversity, public defense work, and the criminal justice system. For her successes, BGT was award the HU MoveMaker by the Howard University Alumni Association in 2018. This August, she was a panelist at the Teaching Advocates Conference, at which she shared her expertise on the Training a New Coach and A Call to Change - A Time to Act: Responding to the National Movement for Social Justice panels.
coordinator, curriculum & adjunct Faculty
Yolanda is the Curriculum and Adjunct Faculty Coordinator at American University Washington College of Law. In this capacity, she is responsible for supporting the Advocacy Program. She is the point of contact for program adjuncts and students, providing course materials and related information. She also tracks the LL.M. program applicants.
Yolanda joined WCL in 2019 with an extensive background working in academia. She previously worked in both development and alumni relations as the lead for coordinating all events, receiving and processing all funds. She is from New York, relocated to the Washington, DC area in 1990.
Adjunct Faculty & Coaches
Success of the program is due, in large part, to the more than 100 legal professionals who teach, coach, and volunteer to support our mission. Area practitioners and judges impart their vast expertise as they teach a wide range of advocacy courses. The Advocacy Program also welcomes the expertise of faculty and other skilled practitioners, who have coached student competition teams to more than 25 national championships over the last 8 years. Adjunct faculty and competition team coaches act as invaluable resources for students and come together to build a formidable network of practitioners to support Advocacy Program students.