Greensburg Salem High School Wins Pennsylvania Bar Association Statewide Mock Trial Competition

Pennsylvania champs: Greensburg Salem High School Mock Trial Team

HARRISBURG (March 27, 2017) — Greensburg Salem High School in Westmoreland County won the 34th Annual Pennsylvania Bar Association Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition, which took place at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg on March 24 and 25. Greensburg Salem High School also won the 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2007 PBA Statewide High School Mock Trial competitions.

Greensburg Salem High School will represent Pennsylvania in the national mock trial finals to be held May 11 – 13 in Hartford, Connecticut.

The Greensburg Salem High School Mock Trial Team is composed of students Erica Faulk, Brianna Franzino, Charity Hipple, Mary Joy, Aislinn Lowry, Jeremy Mauser, Elizabeth Rullo, Claire Simpson, John Stafford and Dennis Zedalis. The teacher coach is Beth Simone. The attorney advisor is Eric Dee. 

Joining the Greensburg Salem High School team in the final round of competition was Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia. The Roman Catholic High School Mock Trial Team is composed of students Christian Dellavella, Joseph Doherty, Ryan Frank, Nicholas Hamilton, Paul Keene, Josh Picciotti, Joseph Pizzo and Justin Vespasiani. The teacher coach is John Pensabene. The attorney advisor is Steven Patton. 

The Roman Catholic High School team also competed at the state level of competition in 2015 and 2016.

Chief Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, presided over the final round of competition.

“These finalists have demonstrated the highest level of critical-thinking and effective communication skills that are needed to rise to the state championship level of competition,” said Joel C. Seelye of Altoona, chair of the association’s Young Lawyers Division. “We congratulate these students, along with the teacher advisors, and legal and community volunteers who shared their time and their expertise in helping them achieve excellence.” 

Twelve additional teams participated in the state championships, including the following: 

Abington Heights High School (Lackawanna County), Bensalem High School (Bucks County), Devon Preparatory School (Chester County), Dubois Area High School (Clearfield County), Eden Christian Academy (Allegheny County), Jenkintown High School (Montgomery County), McDowell High School (Erie County), New Brighton Area High School (Beaver County), Spring Grove High School (York County), Trinity High School (Washington County), Upper St. Clair High School (Allegheny County) and Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School (Luzerne County)

This year, 294 teams from 252 high schools competed in district and regional levels of Pennsylvania's mock trial competition — one of the largest in the nation. 

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 lawyers 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.

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.

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 Pennsylvania Bar Association Statewide Mock Trial Championships, visit the PBA Web site at