Center for Trial and Appellate Advocacy

St. John’s Law mock trial program ranked #8 in the nation!

Advocacy is both an art and science.  Great advocates weave together the law of evidence and procedure with the traditional tools of persuasion.  At St. John’s Law, we have a long history of producing great trial and appellate advocates.  The Center for Trial and Appellate Advocacy highlights St. John’s Law’s commitment to producing the next generation of outstanding advocates.

The Center for Trial and Appellate Advocacy is home to students, faculty, alumni, and friends interested in advocacy of all forms: civil and criminal; trial and appellate; federal, state, and global.  Current students can take advantage of our innovative curriculum, participate in our nationally-ranked trial advocacy and appellate advocacy co-curriculum programs, and network with our faculty and alumni.  Alumni and friends can benefit from our forthcoming CLE and advanced training programs.

Please follow the Center on Facebook and LinkedIn for the latest updates.

Director
Larry Cunningham
Associate Dean for Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness and Professor of Legal Writing
St. John’s University School of Law
[email protected]
718-990-7616
Twitter: @proflcunningham

Our Program

Jamie Caponera is a rising third year law student at St. John’s University School of Law. She came to law school after receiving dual degrees in political science and criminal justice from the University of South Carolina. At St. John’s, Jamie is the Articles Editor of the St. John’s Law Review. Additionally, she is a member of the Frank S. Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute, where she has had the opportunity to hone her skills as an advocate, winning both internal competitions in her 2L year and being awarded best overall advocate in the spring 2018 internal competition. Jamie is also a teaching assistant for both Legal Writing and Criminal Law. This summer, she is working as a summer associate at Winston & Strawn LLP, where she hopes to continue post-graduation in their litigation department. She aspires to work in the criminal field during her career.

Brian Dolan is a third-year student at St. John’s University School of Law. His career interests include working as an appellate law clerk and then going on to work as a public defender or civil rights lawyer, either at the trial or appellate level. His main academic interests are criminal law, criminal procedure, and constitutional law. He is a senior staff member of the St. John’s Law Review. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from SUNY Geneseo in 2014. While at Geneseo, he researched and wrote a paper on the phenomenon of false confessions and he was exposed to other issues at the intersection of psychology and criminal law, including the unreliability of eyewitness identifications and the insanity defense. This exposure helped inspire him to pursue a career in criminal law.

As a Criminal Justice major at St. John’s University, Mostafa Khairy knew this was the field he wanted to spend the rest of his life working in. He received his first insight into the legal world as an intern with the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County, New York. Inspired by the work he did with Legal Aid, Mostafa decided to continue his legal education at St. John’s University School of Law. Here, he has taken every opportunity he could; immersing himself in the field of criminal law through courses like Criminal Procedure, Criminal Procedure Sentencing, New York Criminal Practice, and Evidence. He gained practical experience through his participation in St. Johns’ mock trial program (PTAI) and joining the Consumer Justice for the Elderly Litigation Clinic where he truly learned what it meant to be a lawyer and assist your own clients. In Summer 2017, Mostafa interned at the New York County District Attorney’s Office. While working in the trial bureau, Mostafa assisted in researching complex legal issues, assisting in criminal investigations, and even second seating his first trial. After leaving the Manhattan DA’s Office, Mostafa decided to intern with the New York City Law Department where he is currently interning in the Special Federal Litigation Division. Here, Mostafa works to defend the City of New York, NYPD Officers, and NYC Correction Officers in civil suits. After law school, Mostafa aspires to continue his litigation work and become an Assistant Corporation Counsel or Assistant District Attorney and continue to serve his community.

Anna Piszczatowski graduated from Stony Brook University in 2015 with a B.S. in Health Science, concentration in Disability Studies and Human Development. She returned to Stony Brook University during her 1L summer to intern in the Office of General Counsel. Following her 1L summer, Anna explored her interest in both corporate law and criminal law through multiple internships. To expand upon her corporate interests, Anna worked as a Legal Extern in the Corporate Department at the Estée Lauder Companies in the spring of 2018. She is currently working as a Summer Associate at Hahn & Hessen LLP, rotating through the Corporate and Bankruptcy Departments.  In the fall of 2017, Anna worked as Legal Intern for a criminal appeals solo practitioner. There, Anna contributed in the brief-writing process and witnessed oral arguments in the Appellate Division. The following semester, she helped 1Ls in the doctrinal Criminal Law course as a Teaching Assistant. Finally, during the 2018-2019 school year, she will serve as a Legal Intern at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office through the law school’s Prosecution Clinic.  Anna’s favorite part of her law school experience so far has been her time as a member of the Moot Court Honor Society. The teamwork amongst her peers is just one small advantage. Through competing in both internal and external competitions, she has discovered a love of brief writing and has excelled in public speaking. She received an award for “Best Brief” and reached the semi-finals in the Reverend Joseph T. Tinnelly Moot Court Competition. More recently, she placed as a finalist in the Hon. Milton Mollen Moot Court Competition.

Paul Tsenesidis is a rising 3L from Astoria, New York. Before attending St. John’s, Paul attended Stony Brook University where he graduated with honors, receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy.  Paul chose St. John’s because of its strong reputation for producing outstanding litigators. He has interned for the Honorable Joanna Seybert of the Eastern District of New York, the Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation Clinic, and the law firm of Levine & Blit. He hopes to become a prosecutor post-graduation. This summer he is working at the New York County District Attorney’s Office as a Law Fellow and will work at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office this upcoming year as part of St. John’s Prosecution Clinic.  Additionally, he is dedicated to public service and is highly involved on campus with various student organizations. He is a member of the Frank S. Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute and the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development. He currently serves as President of the St. John’s Chapter of the Federal Bar Association and has previously served as Secretary for the Student Bar Association, President of the Hellenic Lawyers Student Association, and as a student representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Inn of Court.

 

The 1L curriculum provides the foundation for future coursework in advocacy. Great trial and appellate lawyers must be well-versed in Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, and the other fundamental subjects in the first year.  At St. John’s Law, students benefit from our innovative Introduction to Law and Lawyering courses.  The Lawyering course, which is offered in an intensive, intersession format, introduces students to the fundamental skills of interviewing, counseling, negotiation, and drafting.

In the upper years, Evidence and Professional Responsibility form the building blocks of further coursework in advocacy.  Evidence teaches the rules of the courtroom: how to admit and exclude evidence via the Federal Rules of Evidence.  Professional Responsibility introduces the rules and ethical principles that govern the lawyer’s conduct both in and out of the courtroom.

From there, students can take Trial Advocacy and Appellate Advocacy.  As their names suggest, these courses teach students how to try a case or litigate an appeal.  These are hands-on classes that are taught in low-enrollment formats.  Trial Advocacy culminates in a full mock trial, while Appellate Advocacy concludes with a mock oral argument.  Special sections of Trial Advocacy and Appellate Advocacy are offered to students in our award-winning Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute and Moot Court Honor Society programs.

St. John’s Law offers a unique opportunity for students to gain particular expertise in discrete aspects of trial practice through its innovative “Advanced Trial Advocacy” courses. In the past several semesters, sections of this course have been offered in direct and cross-examination, jury selection, and argumentation.

Great advocates excel not only in the courtroom but in the work leading up to a trial or appeal. Thus, St. John’s offers a variety of drafting and dispute resolution courses to help students round out their advocacy education.

Finally, all students have the opportunity to hone their advocacy skills through our many clinics and externships . Each of our 10 clinics place students in the “first chair” role, directly representing clients in real cases.  We also offer many externships that allow students to appear “on the record” in court.

Justice Albert H. Bosch Award

Established by Justice Albert H. Bosch, a graduate of the class of 1933, and awarded to the students in the graduating class who has demonstrated excellence in the area of trial or appellate advocacy.

International Academy of Trial Lawyers Award

Awarded to the student in the graduating class who achieves the highest grade in Evidence.

Tyler Ramaker Memorial Award

Established by the family and friends of the late Tyler Ramaker, a member of the Moot Court Honor Society, and awarded to the graduating Moot Court student who demonstrates outstanding service, leadership through action, dedication, and cooperative teamwork. The Dean selects the recipient, upon therecommendation of the Moot Court Honor Society’s incoming Executive Board.

New York City Trial Lawyers Alliance Trial Advocacy Award

Awarded to the student in the graduating class who has shown excellence in civil trial advocacy.

Center for Trial and Appellate Advocacy Award for Excellence in Mock Trial

Awarded to the graduating member of the Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute who best demonstrated talent in the art and science of trial advocacy through external competitions.   

Center for Trial and Appellate Advocacy Award for Excellence in Moot Court

Awarded to the graduating member of the Moot Court Honor Society who best demonstrated talent in the art and science of appellate advocacy through external competitions. 

CourtCall Awards for Advocacy

These awards are presented to the students in the Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute and the Moot Court Honor Society who received the highest grade in Trial Advocacy (PTAI) and Appellate Advocacy-Moot Court, respectively.  

Graduates of the Class of 2019 from the Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute and Moot Court Honor Society had an impressive 97% employment rate at graduation, all full-time/long-term bar required or J.D. advantage positions.  Representative employers include:

  • Administration for Children's Services
  • Ahmuty, Demers & McManus
  • Bracewell
  • Bronx District Attorney
  • Brooklyn Defenders
  • Clyde & Co.
  • Cullen & Dykman
  • Fried Frank
  • Hahn & Hessen
  • Jackson Lewis, P.C.
  • Koster Brady & Nagler
  • Legal Aid of Nassau County
  • Nassau District Attorney
  • Nationwide Insurance
  • New York City Law Department/Corporation Counsel
  • New York County (Manhattan) District Attorney
  • Queens District Attorney
  • Suffolk District Attorney
  • Winston & Strawn