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— Overbrook will represent Pennsylvania at the national mock trial championship —

HARRISBURG (March 29, 2004) — Overbrook High School from Philadelphia defeated Pittsburgh’s Oliver High School on Saturday, March 27, to win the Pennsylvania Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Statewide Mock Trial Championship in Harrisburg. Overbrook will represent Pennsylvania in the national mock trial finals May 7-9 in Orlando, Fla. This is Overbrook High School’s second statewide mock trial championship title.

“We would like to congratulate Overbrook High School for winning this year’s statewide high school mock trial competition,” PBA Young Lawyers Division Chair Judge Todd Seelig said. “Celebrating its 20th anniversary, mock trial gives Pennsylvania high school students first-hand experience with the legal system, while allowing them to develop and enhance communication and analytical skills and teamwork. All of the teams that competed across the commonwealth and in the state championships are to be commended for their outstanding work. We are heartened by the quality young men and women who participated in this year's competition. I would also like to thank the hundreds of lawyers who volunteer each year to make this a success, once again showing lawyers’ commitment to volunteer work.”

This year, 268 high schools/teams competed in the district and regional levels of Pennsylvania’s mock trial competition — one of the largest in the nation. Following the local competitions, 12 high school teams advanced to the state mock trial championships. All 12 teams competed in two quarterfinal rounds on Friday, March 26. The four winning teams of the quarterfinal rounds advanced to the semifinal round held Saturday, March 27, at the Dauphin County Courthouse. Those teams included Abington Heights (Lackawanna County), Carlisle High School (Cumberland County), Oliver High School (Allegheny County) and Overbrook High School (Philadelphia). Overbrook beat Abington Heights in the semifinal round and went on to compete against Oliver High School for the state mock trial championship, which was held in the Pennsylvania Senate Chamber. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro presided at the championship. Overbrook played the defense in the finals and Oliver was the prosecution.

The same case, which was used throughout the state in all mock trial competitions, centered around an alleged car theft by a student suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome. On April 1, the National High School Mock Trial Championship will release the new case, which will be used for the national competition. The Overbrook mock trial team will work over the next weeks to prepare for the case.

Through the competition, eight-member student teams are given the opportunity to argue both sides of the case in an actual courtroom before a judge. The students, who play the roles of lawyers, witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants, are assisted by teacher coaches and attorney advisors in preparing for competition. Volunteer attorneys and community leaders serve as jurors in the trials. The juries determine the winners in each trial based on the teams’ abilities to prepare their cases, present arguments and follow court rules.

The 12 teams that made it to the state championships included:

  • Abington Heights, Lackawanna County
  • Carlisle High School, Cumberland County
  • Greensburg Salem High School, Westmoreland County
  • B. Reed Henderson High School, Chester County
  • Lower Moreland High School, Montgomery County
  • Julia R. Masterman High School, Philadelphia
  • Oliver High School, Pittsburgh
  • Overbrook High School, Philadelphia
  • Riverside High School, Beaver County
  • West York Area High School, York County
  • Williamsport Area High School, Lycoming County
  • Wyoming Seminary, Luzerne County

For more information on the 2004 Pennsylvania Bar Association Statewide Mock Trial Championships or to read this year’s case, visit the PBA Web site at www.pabar.org.