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Tyrone and Bellwood-Antis high schools to compete in statewide mock trial competition

The Blair County Bar Association recently announced the start of district competition for the Statewide Mock Trial Championships this coming week at the Blair County Courthouse in Hollidaysburg.
Tyrone Area and Bellwood-Antis High Schools are set to compete, along with other area schools such as Altoona, Central and Hollidaysburg. The schools are among the 262 high school teams competing across Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s mock trial program is one of the largest in the nation. It is sponsored statewide by the PA Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. The mock trial competition gives student teams the opportunity to argue both sides of a 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. 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.
TAHS’s mock trial teacher coach is Todd Cammarata, assisted by Keri Little, with the attorney advisor being Cindy Yeager. Bellwood-Antis is coached by Robert Fisher and Don Wagner, with the attorney advisor being Fred Miller.
Cammarata stated that the mock trial competition is an “absolutely phenomenal” activity for the TAHS students who are academically motivated and want to learn about communicating better and about the law. It’s Tyrone’s first year competing in the mock trial, but he said it’s very involved and the kids are learning that and are very excited.
“I think it’s one of the best extra-curricular activities I’ve seen, so I’m really happy we’re bringing it to Tyrone,” said Cammarata.
Bellwood-Antis mock trial co-coach Robert Fisher was equally excited about his students’ involvement in the competition.
“It’s an opportunity for kids to not only learn about the legal system, but to also think on their feet, test their skills in the areas of public speaking, gain confidence and learn something new,” stated Fisher.
Eleventh grade BAHS student Matt Flaugh said he and his other teammates really enjoy taking part in the competition, adding, “It’s always interesting to try to learn something new and also have a little bit of fun while doing it.”
This year’s mock trial case centers on an alleged kidnapping. The criminal case is titled The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Jaden Sinclair, and it was written by Jonathan A. Grode, a fourth-year evening student at Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law, who also adapted and modified the 2007 mock trial problem.
Jane E. Meyer, Esq., a prior Mock Trial Committee Chairperson and current member of the National High School Mock Trial Championship Board of Directors, completed the final version of the problem in collaboration with Grode.
BAHS attorney advisor and District Magisterial Justice Fred Miller explained that the mock trial is an excellent preparation tool for high school students who are anticipating going to law school.
He said it not only encourages and demands public speaking, but it also acquires the students the ability when in an actual courtroom, to be able to think and react on their feet and adapt their presentation to the court based on how the opposing team is preparing.
“It’s very unique in that aspect and I give these kids all the credit in the world, because it’s difficult to do what they’re doing,” said Miller.
He added, “I think if anybody in the community is available to come to the courthouse and support either one of these teams, I think they’ll see the effort first hand and be proud of the dedication of these students.”
The district level competitions will continue throughout February and March with 12 teams advancing to the PBA Statewide Mock Trial Championships, March 28 and 29, in Harrisburg. The winning team of the state championship will represent PA in the national mock trial finals to be held in late spring in Wilmington, Delaware. Expenses for the winning team’s trip will be funded by the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation.
For more information on the 2008 PBA Statewide Mock Trials Championships and to read this year’s case, visit the Young Lawyers Division pages on the PBA website at http://www.pabar.org.
PA’s mock trial program is partially funded by the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation.