St. John’s Law Hosts 2014 Catholic Middle School Mock Trial Program

Thursday, May 22, 2014

On Saturday, May 17, 2014, over 230 students from 15 area Catholic schools and their families came together at the Law School for the annual Catholic Middle School Mock Trial Program. Celebrating its 12th year, and co-hosted by St. Brigid/Our Lady of Hope Regional School in Westbury, the program was sponsored for the second consecutive year by the Long Island law firm of Duffy & Duffy, through the generosity of Managing Partner Michael Duffy `94.

The schools fielded teams to argue Strongarm v. Rocket, a civil case based on a hit-and-run accident that injured Ryan Strongarm, an aspiring Olympic runner out for a late night run.  The plaintiff put three witnesses on the stand: the victim, a neighbor who may have seen the defendant’s car speeding just before the accident, and the investigating detective. The defense called the defendant, the defendant’s friend/classmate, and the high school guidance counselor who chaperoned the party that the students attended that night.

In addition to raising the usual issues about proof, credibility, and relative fault, the case compelled the students to think about alcohol use, drunk driving, and public safety. They spent weeks preparing for the mock trial and practicing with lawyer coaches and mentors. On the day of the trial, they presented their cases in a realistic setting with Law School faculty, alumni, and friends volunteering as judges.

 “The student participants are only 12 or 13 years old,” said Dean Michael A. Simons, one of the co-organizers of the event, “but they act like real trial lawyers ― thinking on their feet, making their arguments with passion and conviction, and then nervously awaiting the verdict. This is a wonderful, hands-on way for them to get an insider’s view of our legal system, practice public speaking, and build their self-confidence. As the students experience the law in action, they begin to think critically about it as a force for social good. St. John’s Law is committed to supporting Catholic schools and to opening up the pipeline to law school for students who might not otherwise be exposed to these opportunities.”

Paul Clagnaz, the Principal at St. Brigid/Our Lady of Hope and co-organizer of the event, noted how well prepared the students were and how thoughtfully the judges played their role. “This unique annual event stands as a model for the kind of community-centric, experiential learning programs that can immeasurably enrich Catholic education,” he said, acknowledging the innovative collaboration between a Catholic law school and the Catholic middle schools. “It is inspiring to be part of it.”

Pamela Albanese ’14, this year’s Middle School Mock Trial Fellow, echoed Dean Simons’ praise for the young advocates. “The kids were absolutely fantastic,” she said. Ms. Albanese also expressed her gratitude to the people who made the program work. “This program would not be possible without the generous support of Duffy & Duffy, and the dedication of the judges, coaches, and teachers who volunteered their time.”

Participating Schools:

  • Bro. Joseph C. Fox Latin School at Kellenberg Memorial HS
  • The De La Salle School, Freeport
  • Genesis at Xaverian High School, Brooklyn
  • Holy Family School, Hicksville
  • Notre Dame School, New Hyde Park
  • Our Lady of Peace School, Lynbrook
  • Our Lady of Victory School, Floral Park
  • St. Aidan School, Williston Park
  • St. Brigid/Our Lady of Hope Regional School, Westbury
  • Ss. Cyril & Methodius School, Deer Park
  • St. Martin de Porres Marianist School, Uniondale
  • St. Mary School, East Islip
  • St. Patrick, Bay Shore
  • St. Peter of Alcantara School, Port Washington
  • St. Thomas the Apostle School, West Hempstead

Participating Judges:

  • Anna Abrigo, Legal Recruiter, Tower Legal Solutions
  • Samantha Cucolo ’12, Manager, Business & Legal Affairs, Viacom
  • Larry Cunningham, Associate Academic Dean, St. John’s Law School
  • Erica Fine '82, Adjunct Professor, St. John’s Law School
  • Kimathi Gordon-Somers, Associate Director, Career Development, St. John’s Law School
  • Christopher Kutner ‘90, Rivkin Radler
  • Matthew Mundo, Manager of Legal Education, BAR/BRI
  • Craig Rokuson ’06, White, Fleischner & Fino, LLP
  • Andrew J. Simons ’65, Vice Dean Emeritus, St. John’s Law School
  • Michael A. Simons, Dean and John V. Brennan Professor of Law and Ethics, St. John’s Law School
  • William Spratt ‘77, Shaub Ahmuty Citron & Spratt LLP
  • Frank Torres, Duffy & Duffy
  • Kareem Vessup ’04, The Law Office of Kareem R. Vessup

For more information on the Catholic Middle School Mock Trial Program at St. John’s Law, please contact Lori Herz, Director of Communications, at herzl@stjohns.edu.