Abington Heights High School Wins Pennsylvania Bar Association Statewide Mock Trial Competition

HARRISBURG (March 31, 2021) — Abington Heights High School in Lackawanna County won the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition, which took place March 26, March 27 and March 30 virtually for the first time in its 38-year history. The competition is sponsored by the PBA Young Lawyers Division.

Abington Heights High School will represent Pennsylvania in the national mock trial finals virtually, May 13 – 15, in Evansville, Ind.

The Abington Heights High School mock trial team is composed of students: Faith Bennett, Michael Cummins, Julia LaCoe, Maddie Lucas, Evan Pallis, Noelle Prisco, Eric Shuster, Aiden Snyder and Adam Tinkelman. The teacher coach is Leonard Romanski. The attorney advisor is Daniel Cummins.

Joining the Abington Heights team in the final round of competition was Nazareth Area High School in Northampton County. The team is composed of students: Imanee Adisa, Brooklyn Bradley, Emma Browning, Grace Cuevas, Alexa Gulea, Nathan Schmidt, Shannon Seidel and Carlos Veloz. The teacher coach is Patricia Cunningham. The attorney advisor is Gary Brienza.

President Judge Kimberly Berkeley Clark, Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania, presided over the final round of competition.

“Despite the many challenges they had to overcome this year, all of the teams competing in the finals performed immensely well in the new virtual format,” said PBA Young Lawyers Division Chair Colin O’Boyle. “The students gained a deepening knowledge of our justice system, while learning life skills that will continue to serve them well for many years to come, including successful dispute resolution techniques and valuable presentation, critical-thinking and teamwork skills.”

In response to the pandemic, the PBA Young Lawyers Division Mock Trial Executive Committee led by co-chairs Jonathan D. Koltash of Harrisburg and Jennifer Menichini of Scranton decided to continue the annual tradition virtually to promote a sense of normalcy for students who regularly participate in mock trial competitions throughout their high school years.

Fourteen additional teams participated in the state championships, including: Central Bucks South High School, Bucks County; Cumberland Valley High School, Cumberland County; Eden Christian Academy, Allegheny County; Greensburg Salem High School, Westmoreland County; Harriton High School, Montgomery County; Lower Merion High School, Montgomery County; Meadville Area Senior High School, Crawford County; Merion Mercy Academy, Delaware County; Mount Lebanon High School, Allegheny County; North Catholic High School, Butler County; Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School (PALCS), Chester County; Roman Catholic High School, Philadelphia County; Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School, Philadelphia County; and State College Area High School, Centre County.

This year, 232 teams from 199 high schools competed in district and regional levels of Pennsylvania's mock trial competition in hopes of gaining one of the 16 spots at the statewide competition. Pennsylvania’s competition is one of the largest in the nation.

Throughout the competition, eight-member student teams were given the opportunity to argue both sides of the case 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 served as jurors for the mock trials. The juries determined 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, Estate of George Romero v. Ashley Williams, is a civil trial to determine whether the defendant is guilty of murdering George Romero with a chemical the defendant prepared.

The case was written by Jonathan A. Grode and Paul W. Kaufman, both of Philadelphia. Grode and Kaufman have been involved in the drafting of these materials for the past seven years

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.