John Sharifi

John N. Sharifi, Director

Professor Sharifi has been a faculty member at the law school since 2008 and currently teaches Evidence and Advanced Evidence. His scholarly interests concern criminal litigation, and his work is published in The American Criminal Law Review, The American Journal of Trial Advocacy, and the Akron Law Review. He was appointed Director of the National Trial Team in 2015. Since assuming that role, CUA has achieved numerous distinctions in advocacy and won the national championship at the 2019 National Trial Competition. He has twice been honored by the student body as Adjunct Professor of the Year.

Professor Sharifi is an attorney in the Appellate Division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, where he represents indigent defendants on direct appeal in Maryland’s appellate courts. Prior to that role, he was a criminal trial and appellate attorney in private practice and handled numerous highly publicized cases. He argued the landmark homicide appeal of State v. Jones, reversing precedent and eliminating altogether a theory of murder in Maryland.

Professor Sharifi earned an LL.M. degree from The George Washington University Law Center and a J.D. from The Catholic University, Columbus School of Law. As a law student, he founded the law school’s chapter of the Innocence Project and served as its first president. As a student member of the National Trial Team, he was a regional champion and national semi- finalist. Professor Sharifi is admitted to practice in Maryland’s state and federal courts, the Fourth Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court.

Lindsey Cloud Mervis

Lindsey Cloud, Associate Director

Professor Cloud has been an adjunct faculty member at Catholic Law since 2014. In addition to her work with the National Mock Trial Team, she currently teaches Trial Practice.

Professor Cloud heads the legal training practice at KNP Communications. In that capacity, she leads presentation skills training programs at many of the country’s largest law firms. Her clients include WilmerHale, Cleary Gottlieb, and Crowell & Moring, as well as leading practitioners in advocacy and public policy. She has also provided presentation skills training for NASA engineers, recording industry executives, and healthcare professionals.

Professor Cloud is a former performing artist, and earned a B.F.A in Theatre Performance from Miami University before graduating cum laude from The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law. In law school, she was an active member of the National Trial Team, and was a finalist in the 2011 Costello National Criminal Law Trial Advocacy Competition. She was also selected to be the Student Commencement Speaker for the class of 2012. Upon graduation, Professor Cloud served as a Constitutional Law Fellow at the Institute for Justice. She represents clients in both criminal and civil litigation, and is a member of the Maryland Bar.


Vania Smith

Vania Smith, Coach

Ms. Smith joined the National Mock Trial Team program as a coach in 2021 after a highly decorated career in trial competition, which included winning the national championship at the National Trial Competition (NTC). As a student, Ms. Smith advanced at every tournament in which she competed, beginning with a quarterfinal finish at Golden Gate Law School’s In Vino Veritas in 2017. She finished as a semi-finalist and was awarded the best cross-examiner in the same competition in 2018. That same year, Ms. Smith was a regional semi-finalist at the NTC regional qualifiers. The following year, Ms. Smith was part of the team that won the NTC regional championship. One month later, at nationals, her team won Catholic Law’s first ever NTC national championship. Ms. Smith also individually won the award for best advocate in the entire competition. As a result of this tremendous accomplishment, she was invited to the highly selective Top Gun tournament hosted by Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She capped off her mock trial career as part of the team that made it to the final at Denver Law’s Summit Cup trial competition, where she won an “Outstanding Advocate” award. In March 2022, Ms. Smith's paper entitled,  “Advocacy Competitions or Courtroom Cosplay? The Case for Rejecting Theatrics and Rewarding Authenticity at Law School Mock Trial Competitions,” won the Stetson Advocacy Writing Competition, and will be presented at the Educating Advocacy Teachers Conference this summer.

Ms. Smith is a member of the District of Columbia bar and an associate at Friedlander Misler, PLLC in Washington, D.C., where she works in the firm's Real Estate and Commercial Transactions practice group.