Frank S. Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute

St. John's Law ranks #5 in the nationwide Trial Competition Performance Rankings!


The Frank S. Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute (PTAI) is the Law School’s trial advocacy/mock trial program. Since our start in 2001, we've offered St. John's Law students a singular range of opportunities—from trial training programs to internal and external trial competitions—to build their courtroom advocacy skills and to learn to think, act, and speak like trial attorneys. 

Named in honor of Professor Frank S. Polestino, who taught trial skills to hundreds of students at St. John's during his long tenure here, PTAI is committed to showcasing our students' extraordinary talents and interests in trial work.

Trial Competitions & Events

Throughout the academic year, our advocates participate in national and regional competitions around the country. Our competition teams have excelled in the last several years. Here are just some of our notable achievements from the 2023-2024 competition season:

  • Champions – Buffalo Niagara Mock Trial Competition, McGeorge National Criminal Trial Competition (Gold Cup), Texas Young Lawyers Association Regional Competition, Trials and Tribulations IV National Trial Competition
  • Finalists – Queen’s District Attorney’s Office Mock Trial Competition
  • Semifinalists – Quinnipiac ABA Criminal Justice Trial Advocacy Competition, American Association for Justice Regional Mock Trial Competition

PTAI’s annual internal competitions and events include the:

  • Charles M. Sparacio Criminal Internal Trial Competition
  • Peter James Johnson National Civil Rights Trial Competition
  • Edward Hart Civil Internal Trial Competition
  • McKenna Forum
  • Advocate in the Spotlight Forum
  • Brian Peterson Memorial First-Year Trial Competition 

Our Coaches

An integral part of PTAI's success is our coaching roster of St. John's Law alumni and others. They bring their skills and insights as experienced trial attorneys to teach PTAI students how to effectively try a case—from introducing evidence and formulating a case theory to cross-examining key witnesses. If you are interested in coaching our external competition teams, please contact Maria Rivero at [email protected]

Volunteer Opportunities

We also need coaches, evaluators, and judges for our internal competitions. If you are an alumna/us interested in volunteering, please contact Lori Kanina at [email protected]

2024-2025 Executive Board

PTAI's executive board plans and organizes competitions and other activities throughout the year. The current executive board members are:

Executive Director
Justin Fuller

Managing Director
Giuseppina Mammoliti

Director of External Competitions
Hailey Janysek

Director of Internal Competitions
Lori Kanina

Director of Special Events
Stephanie LaPlante

Associate Director of Alumni Relations and Student Outreach
Times Hwang

Associate Director of Communications and Records
Angelina Campanile

Associate Director of Team Logistics and Inter-Organization Events
Kellene Rottenberger

PTAI Advisor
Maria Rivero

Contact Us

PTAI graduates have gone on to rewarding careers as assistant district attorneys, public defenders, private criminal defense lawyers, and as litigators. To learn more about participating in, and supporting, the Frank S. Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute at St. John's Law, please contact us.  

Learn More About PTAI

Peter James Johnson '49 Memorial National Civil Rights Trial Competition

PTAI is proud to sponsor the Peter James Johnson '49 Memorial National Civil Rights Trial Competition every year.

About the Competition
The only national civil rights trial competition in the country, the annual Peter James Johnson Competition offers law students from up to 16 law schools throughout the country an opportunity to try a civil rights case in an actual courtroom setting before prominent jurists and trial attorneys. The competition was renamed the Peter James Johnson '49 National Civil Rights Trial Competition in 2008 in honor of Peter James Johnson '49, a St. John’s Law graduate who dedicated his legal career to excellence in the practice of law.

The 2023 Competition
The 2023 PJJ Competition will be held in Fall 2023. 

Additional information regarding invitations and applications will be released this summer.

Contact Information
If you have any questions about the 2023 Peter James Johnson '49 Memorial National Civil Rights Trial Competition, please contact PTAI Director of Special Events John Di Leo at [email protected] 

As a nationally recognized trial team, membership in PTAI is a prestigious distinction. Tryouts take place at the end of the spring semester. Students who are invited to join PTAI are offered a seat in either the Pre-Session or Fall PTAI Trial Advocacy course. Those who receive a seat in either course have the potential to compete externally in national and regional tournaments. 


Frank S. Polestino was a graduate of the New York University School of Law class of 1958 and served as a professor at St. John’s University School of Law from 1972 until his passing in 2001.  He served as a long-time advisor to the Criminal Law Institute and the law school’s chapter of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.  Professor Polestino was the moderator for the Walter J. McKenna Forum, which annually provides a forum for the discussion of current topics in criminal law by a distinguished panel.  

Before joining the law faculty, Professor Polestino served as Law Assistant in the Queens County Supreme Court and as Law Clerk for Associate Judge John F. Scileppi of the New York Court of Appeals.  Prior to that, he was a partner at a New York City law Firm. 

In addition to developing the Law School’s present Prosecution Clinic program, he frequently lectured on Criminal Law and Procedure for Justices of the New York Supreme Court and Judges of the Criminal Court of the city of New York, at Bar Associations, and at seminars sponsored by the Office of Court Administration.  In 1994, he received the New York State Bar Association Criminal Justice Section award for Outstanding Contribution in the field of Criminal Law Education. 

During his time with the law school, Professor Polestino was an inspiration and mentor to his students, and greatly respected by the faculty and outside the school. 

The Frank S. Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute is named in his honor.