HARRISBURG – Dubois Area High School is one of the 14 high schools advancing to the 34th annual Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition, Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25, at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg. The competition is sponsored by the PBA Young Lawyers Division.
The Dubois Area High School Mock Trial Team is composed of students Alaina Horm, Nate Horner, Jake Landini, Brianna Nelson, Mackenzie Obenreder, Kailey Pisani, Mercedes Raab, Isaac Rupert, Abbeigh Schroeder, Max Sensor, Renee Wilderoter and Liam Wilderoter. The teacher coaches are Chris Taylor and Dave Martin. The attorney advisor is Jeff DuBois.
Dubois Area High School is moving on to the state level as the winner of the Region Four area of competition that includes schools in Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Elk, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Tioga and Union counties.
The team bested a Montoursville High School team, in a very close regional competition held at the federal courthouse in Williamsport on March 21. Senior Lycoming County Judge William Kieser presided at the trial. A number of Lycoming County bar members served as jurors for the trial.
This year, 294 teams from 252 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 11 – 13 in Hartford, Conn.
“Although it is called a competition, we view the mock trial program as a great academic opportunity for high school students, even those who do not plan future careers in the law,” said Joel C. Seelye of Altoona, chair of the association’s Young Lawyers Division.
“Critical thinking, effective presentation skills and dispute resolution tactics are just some the ingredients needed to be successful in the mock trial program, and these are skills that will be helpful in many workplaces.”
On March 24, 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 25.
The two winners of this round (or the two highest-ranking teams) will advance to the state final at 11:30 a.m. Chief Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, will serve as the presiding judge.
This year’s hypothetical case is a criminal trial to determine whether the defendant is guilty of committing an act of arson that destroyed an advanced automotive plant.
The case was written by Jonathan A. Grode of Philadelphia, Paul W. Kaufman of Philadelphia, Koltash and Stanford University student Talia Charme-Zane, an alumna of the Pennsylvania mock trial program and former captain of the Central High School team in Philadelphia.
The co-chairs of the Mock Trial Executive Committee are Jonathan D. Koltash of Harrisburg and 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.