Trinity High School and Penn Trafford High School Advance to Pennsylvania Bar Association Statewide Mock Trial

HARRISBURG (March 16, 2018) — Trinity High School and Penn Trafford High School are two of 14 high schools advancing to the 35th Annual Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24, at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg. The competition is sponsored by the PBA Young Lawyers Division.

The Trinity High School team is composed of students Danny Dillon, Jeff Ecker, Zach Ecker, Ope Esan, Carson Nutter, Elliott Salvatori and Alison Spadaro. The teacher coach is Mary Ellen Jutca. The attorney advisors are James B. McCune and Corey Kirkwood.

The Penn Trafford High School team consists of students Jeffrey Backus, Noel Bass-Riley, Emma Bender, Grace Bender, Taylor Boulware, Cole Casey, Eden Elma, Maddy Haberberger, Livvy Haberberger, Emily Mears, Natalie Norman, Zachary Perrin, Kate Polechko and Eleonora Yuschock. The teacher coaches are Christina Wukich, Jen Haberberger and Bridget Ruschak. The attorney advisor is Steve Fulton.

Both teams are moving on to the state level as winners of the Region Three area of competition that includes schools in Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Mifflin, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

This year, 291 teams from 249 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 10 – 12 in Reno, Nev.

“Throughout its history, the competition has offered students the opportunity to learn about the laws and the courts and to build important communication and teamwork skills that will serve them well throughout their lifetimes,” said Jonathan D. Koltash of Harrisburg, chair of the association’s Young Lawyers Division and co-chair of the Mock Trial Executive Committee. “I know firsthand the amount of time, effort and energy that goes into planning and executing this program each year, and extend my deep appreciation and gratitude to the hundreds of teacher, lawyer and community member volunteers who make it such a success time again.”

On March 23, 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 24. The two winners of this round (or the two highest-ranking teams) will advance to the state final at 11:30 a.m.

This year’s hypothetical case is a civil trial to determine whether the plaintiff, who exposed a fellow colleague’s alleged bribery, was withdrawn an offer to her employer’s Leadership Development Program in retaliation against her whistleblowing to cover up the bribe or a business decision to cut ties with an unreliable employee.

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

Serving along with Koltash as co-chair of the Mock Trial Executive Committee is 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 March 31 at 7 p.m., April 1 at 2 p.m. and April 5 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

Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association strives to promote justice, professional excellence and respect for the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access to legal services; and serve the 26,000 lawyers who are members of the association.