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

HARRISBURG, Pa. (March 27, 2024) — Abington Heights High School in Lackawanna County won the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition, which took place March 22-23 at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg. The competition is sponsored by the PBA Young Lawyers Division.

This year’s winning team will represent Pennsylvania in the national mock trial finals May 3-4 in Wilmington, Delaware.

The Abington Heights High School mock trial team students were Amishi Amit, Christopher Cummins, J.T. Healey, Madeline Herold, Dane Huggler, Aidan Lam, Serena Mokhtari, Henry Moore, Nolan Moore, William Newton, Ananya Phadki, Zachary Riggall, Thomas Russini, Ava Shedlauskas and Ava Whalen. The teacher coaches were Amy Kelly and Jennifer Tarr. The attorney advisors were Dan Cummins and Jody Healey.

Joining the Abington Heights team in the final round of competition was Spring Grove High School in York County. Team students were Kaitlyn Edwards, Ava German, Hadley Lamb, John Reilly, Jordan Sharp, Mallory Snyder, Charles Stewart and Kathryn Wyrick. The teacher coach was Jason Baker. The attorney advisor was Jack Graybill.

Judge Jennifer P. Wilson, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, served as the presiding judge.

In addition to Abington Heights and Spring Grove, 12 teams participated in the state championships, including: Aquinas Academy of Pittsburgh; Bensalem High School; Central Bucks East High School; Eden Christian Academy; Greensburg Salem High School; Henderson High School; Montoursville High School; North Penn High School; Northwestern Senior High School; Roman Catholic High School; The Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School of Philadelphia; and Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School.

This year, 262 teams from 215 high schools competed in district and regional levels of Pennsylvania's mock trial competition in hopes of gaining one of the spots at the statewide competition. Pennsylvania’s competition is one of the largest in the nation.

Throughout the competition, 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 case is a trial to determine who murdered a competitive small business owner, Geoffrey Esper, and his dog and why. Esper was a well-known business owner in Susquehannock Square in Wisawe, Pennsylvania. He competed with other businesses. In approximately one month’s time, Esper went from being the winner of a substantial scratch-off lottery ticket prize to a murder victim. Modern capitalism, the American dream, and competition are part of this case of friendly competition turning deadly.

The case was adapted by Jonathan A. Grode, Paul W. Kaufman and the Mock Trial Executive Committee from materials originally written by the State Bar of Georgia.

Serving as co-chairs of the Mock Trial Executive Committee were Jonathan Koltash and Jennifer Menichini, both former chairs of the Young Lawyers Division. PBA President Michael McDonald also assisted with and attended the event.

For more information about the 2024 PBA Statewide Mock Trial Championships and to read this year’s case, visit https://bit.ly/3PDUWkG.

About the Pennsylvania Bar Association
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. For more information, visit pabar.org. Follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.