Abington Heights High School Advances to Pennsylvania Bar Association Statewide Mock Trial Championship

HARRISBURG (March 22, 2017) — Abington Heights High School is one of the 14 high schools advancing to the 34th Annual Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition, Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25, at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg. The competition is sponsored by the PBA Young Lawyers Division. 

The Abington Heights High School Mock Trial Team is composed of students Eliezer Caminero, Alyson Campbell, Dan Cummins, Clare Della Valle, Andrew Kirtley, Alex Klucher, Keonei Mahoney, Neel Mehta, Anna Moher, Nina Sampogne, Lucy Specht and Thomas Yocum. The teacher coach is Leonard Romanski. The attorney advisors are Dan Cummins, Tom Specht and Julie Zaleski. 

Abington Heights High School is moving on to the state level as the winner of the Region Ten area of competition that includes schools in Bradford, Lackawanna, Monroe, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties. 

This year, 294 teams from 252 high schools competed in district and regional levels of Pennsylvania's mock trial competition in hopes of gaining one of the 14 spots at the statewide competition. Pennsylvania’s competition is one of the largest in the nation. 

The winning team of the state championship will represent Pennsylvania in the national mock trial finals to be held May 11 – 13 in Hartford, Connecticut.

“Although it is called a competition, we view the mock trial program as a great academic opportunity for high school students, even those who do not plan future careers in the law,” said Joel C. Seelye of Altoona, chair of the association’s Young Lawyers Division. “Critical thinking, effective presentation skills and dispute resolution tactics are just some the ingredients needed to be successful in the mock trial program, and these are skills that will be helpful in many workplaces.”

On March 24, all 14 teams will participate in two rounds of competition, one at 3 p.m. and one at 6:15 p.m. Up to six teams that have won their first two rounds of competition will advance to an 8:30 a.m. round of competition on March 25.  The two winners of this round (or the two highest-ranking teams) will advance to the state final at 11:30 a.m. Chief Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, will serve as the presiding judge.

This year’s hypothetical case is a criminal trial to determine whether the defendant is guilty of committing an act of arson that destroyed an advanced automotive plant.

The case was written by Jonathan A. Grode of Philadelphia, Paul W. Kaufman of Philadelphia, Koltash and Stanford University student Talia Charme-Zane, an alumna of the Pennsylvania mock trial program and former captain of the Central High School team in Philadelphia.

The co-chairs of the Mock Trial Executive Committee are Jonathan D. Koltash of Harrisburg and Jennifer Menichini of Scranton.

During 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 lawyer advisors in preparing for competition. Lawyers and community leaders serve as jurors for the mock 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 Pennsylvania Cable Network will record the final round of the competition for airing statewide on April 1 at 7:00 p.m., April 2 at 2 p.m. and April 6 at 7:30 p.m. The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation, the charitable affiliate of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, is providing funding support for the broadcast.  

For more information about the PBA Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition, visit the PBA website at http://www.pabar.org.