Holy Cross High School Wins Pennsylvania Bar Association Statewide Mock Trial Competition

Germantown Friends School (Philadelphia County) and Holy Cross High School (Lackawanna County) Edged Out Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School in Final Round of Competition

HARRISBURG (April 1, 2019) — Holy Cross High School in Lackawanna County won the 36th Annual Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition, which took place at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg on March 29 and 30. The competition is sponsored by the PBA Young Lawyers Division.

A first state finals win for the school, Holy Cross High School will represent Pennsylvania in the national mock trial finals May 16 – 18 in Athens, Ga.

The Holy Cross High School mock trial team is composed of students Elizabeth Arbie, Maggie Arcuri, Christian Ceccoli, Dawson Errigo, Serge Grega, Nicholas Klein, Caroline Kranick, Joe Lennon, Jordan McAndrew, Sarah Mies, Lauren Palmiter, Ericka Pica, Gianna Sacchetti, Mia Sandy and Olivia Zehel. The teacher coach is Janine Wetter. The attorney advisors are Francesca Kester and Jim Wetter.

Joining the Holy Cross High School team in the final round of competition was Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia County. The team is composed of students: Javier Carmona, Brenden Dahl, Sarah Miller, Erin Schott, Ava Sinai, Chloe Smith-Frank and Julian Spiro. The teacher coaches are Rhonda Jones Levy, LaToya Miller and Jeremy Ross. The attorney advisor is William Stassen.

Both teams edged out Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School in Luzerne County to advance to the final round. In a first for the state finals competition, all three of these teams won all three of their trials, but only the two highest-ranking teams could advance to the fourth and final round. Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School won the 2011 and 2018 PBA Statewide High School Mock Trial Competitions.

Judge Karoline Mehalchick, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, presided over the final round of competition.

“These finalists have demonstrated the highest levels of effective communication, critical thinking and teamwork skills necessary to compete in the state level of championship,” said Alaina C. Koltash of Harrisburg, chair of the PBA’s Young Lawyers Division. “Congratulations to these hard working students, along with their teacher advisors and legal and community volunteers who, in the sharing of their time and their expertise, helped them achieve excellence.”

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

Eden Christian Academy (Allegheny County), Butler Area Senior High School (Butler County), Northwestern High School (Erie County), Central High School (Blair County), State College Area High School (Centre County), Cumberland Valley High School (Cumberland County), Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School (Chester County), Penn Wood High School (Delaware County), Roman Catholic High School (Philadelphia County), Lower Merion High School (Montgomery County) and Lower Moreland High School (Montgomery County).

This year, 287 teams from 242 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.

Throughout 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 jury trial in which the defendant, a local pain management doctor, is accused of prescribing opiate painkillers outside the realm of normal medical practice, resulting in the overdose death of his patient.

The case was written by Jonathan A. Grode of Philadelphia, Paul W. Kaufman of Philadelphia, PBA Young Lawyers Division Immediate Past Chair Jonathan D. Koltash of Harrisburg and Talia Charme-Zane, an alumna of the Pennsylvania mock trial program and former captain of the Central High School team in Philadelphia.

Serving as co-chairs of the Mock Trial Executive Committee are Koltash and Young Lawyers Division Chair-elect Jennifer Menichini of Pittston.

The Pennsylvania Cable Network recorded the final round of the competition for airing statewide on April 6 at 7 p.m., April 7 at 2:30 p.m. and April 11 at 8 p.m. The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation, the charitable affiliate of the PBA, is providing funding support for the broadcast. 

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

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 of legal services; and serve the lawyer members of the state’s largest organized bar association.