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Local Students Shine at 2016 Catholic Middle School Mock Trial Program

Monday, May 16, 2016

On Saturday, May 14, 2016, over 200 students from 13 area Catholic schools, and their families, came together at St. John’s Law for the annual Catholic Middle School Mock Trial Program. Celebrating its 14th year, and co-hosted by St. Brigid/Our Lady of Hope Regional School in Westbury, the program was sponsored, for the fourth year in a row, by the Long Island law firm of Duffy & Duffy, through the generosity of Managing Partner Michael Duffy `94.

The schools fielded teams to argue Alex Billings v CJ Pearson, a civil case involving a high school freshman who bullied one of his/her fellow classmates. The plaintiff put three witnesses on the stand: the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s parent and the school psychologist. The defense called the defendant, the defendant’s parent and the ninth grade counselor. The students spent weeks preparing their cases and practicing with lawyer coaches and mentors. On the day of the mock 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. St. John’s Law is committed 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.”

Participating Schools

  • Bro. Joseph C. Fox Latin School, Uniondale
  • De La Salle, Freeport
  • 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
  • St. Joseph School, Garden City
  • St. Martin de Porres, Uniondale
  • St. Mary School, East Islip
  • St. Mary’s School, Manhasset
  • St. Patrick School, Bay Shore
  • St. Thomas the Apostle School, West Hempstead

Participating Judges

  • Anna Abrigo, Legal Recruiter, Tower Legal Solutions
  • Samantha Alessi '11, Assistant District Attorney, Queens County
  • Patrick Cooney '09, Ahmuty, Demers & McManus
  • Samantha Cucolo '12, Counsel, Business & Legal Affairs, Viacom
  • Erica Fine '82, Adjunct Professor, St. John’s Law School
  • Christopher Kutner '90, Rivkin Radler
  • Michael Rabus '82, Ahmuty, Demers & McManus
  • Andrew J. Simons '65, Vice Dean Emeritus, St. John’s Law School
  • Michael Smith '10, Nixon Peabody, LLP
  • William Treuber '64, President & Counsel, New York Metro Title Insurance Company
  • Damias Wilson '12, Cullen and Dykman

 For more information on the Catholic Middle School Mock Trial Program at St. John’s Law, please contact Director of Communications Lori Herz at [email protected].