Frank S. Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute

St. John's Law ranks #8 in the 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.

Catch up with PTAI in the latest edition of The Advocate, PTAI's bi-annual newsletter.

Our Trial Competitions

Throughout the academic year, we 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 2017-2018:

  • Champions – FSU College of Law Mock Trial Competition
  • Champions – Quinnipiac Trial Advocacy Competition
  • Finalists – Buffalo-Niagara Mock Trial Competition
  • Finalists – American Association for Justice Student Trial Advocacy Competition
  • Semi-Finalist – GGU Mock Trial Competition
  • Semi-Finalist – Queens District Attorney’s Office Mock Trial Competition
  • Semi-Finalist – South Texas Mock Trial Challenge Championship
  • Semi-Finalist – TYLA Regionals
  • Best Advocate – FSU College of Law Mock Trial Competition
  • Best Advocate – South Texas Mock Trial Challenge Competition
  • Best Closing – TYLA Regional

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 Dean Cunningham at [email protected]

Volunteer Opportunities

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

2019-2020 PTAI Executive Board

PTAI’s executive board plans and organizes competitions and other activities throughout the year.

Faculty Advisor
Larry Cunningham

Executive Director
Matthew Phillips

Managing Director
Lauren Bisogno

Externals Director
Victoria Benalcazar

Internals Director
Meghan McLoughlin

Special Events
Jillian Gardner

Alumni Chair
Ashley Rocque

Associate Board
Will Healy
Hunter Igoe
Eric Prezioso

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

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 2019 Competition
The 2019 PJJ Competition will be held from October 26 through October 28, 2019. On Saturday, October 26th, two preliminary rounds will be held at the Nassau County Courthouse. On Sunday, October 27th, the quarter-final and semi-final rounds will be held at St. John's University School of Law. The final round, on October 28th, will be held at St. John's University School of Law in the Belson Moot Court Room.

Invitations for the competition will be sent to schools the first week of May. Applications are due by June 1, 2019. Schools will be selected to compete no later than June 15, 2019. Once selected, a payment of $450.00 will be due by July 1, 2019.

Contact Information
If you have any questions about the 2019 Peter James Johnson '49 Memorial National Civil Rights Trial Competition, please contact: PTAI Special Events Director Jillian Gardner at [email protected].

2017-2018

Champions – FSU College of Law Mock Trial Competition

Champions – Quinnipiac Trial Advocacy Competition

Finalists – Buffalo-Niagara Mock Trial Competition

National Finalists – American Association for Justice Student Trial Advocacy Competition

Semi-Finalist – GGU Mock Trial Competition

Semi-Finalist – Queens District Attorney’s Office Mock Trial Competition

Semi-Finalist – South Texas Mock Trial Challenge Championship

Regional Semi-Finalist – TYLA Regionals

2016-2017

Champions - FSU College of Law Mock Trial Competition 

Champions - TYLA Regional Competition  

Champions - Quinnipiac Trial Advocacy Competition

Finalists- Queens District Attorney's Mock Trial Competition

Semi-Finalist- ABA National Criminal Justice Trial Competition

Semi-Finalist- Buffalo-Niagara Mock Trial Competition 

2015-2016

Champions - Buffalo-Niagara Mock Trial Competition

Regional Semi-Finals- TYLA National Trial Competition

Semi-Finalist - ABA National Criminal Justice Trial Competition

2014-2015

Regional Champions - TYLA National Trial Competition and Winner of the Tiffany Cup

Regional Champions - AAJ National Mock Trial Competition

National Quarterfinalists - AAJ National Mock Trial Competition

Champions - Quinnipiac Trial Advocacy Competition

Champions - Pace Round Robin Mock Trial Competition

Finalist - ABA National Criminal Justice Trial Competition

Semi-Finalist - Georgetown White Collar Crime Invitational

Semi-Finalist - Buffalo-Niagara Mock Trial Competition

Semi-Finalist - Queens DA Mock Trial Competition

2013-2014

Finalists - Quinnipiac Trial Advocacy Competition

Regional Champions - TYLA National Trial Competition

Semi-Finalists - Judge Paul Joseph Kelly Jr. Invitational Trial Competition

2012-2013

Regional Semi-Finalists - AAJ National Mock Trial Competition

Semi-Finalists - Costello National Criminal Law Trial Competition

Quarter-Finalists- Capitol City Challenge Mock Trial Competition

Regional Quarter-Finalists - TYLA National Trial Competition

Semi-Finalists - NITA Tournament of Champions

Finalists- Buffalo - Niagara Invitational Mock Trial Competition

Semi-Finalists - Labor and Employment Law Competition

Finalists- Estrella Trial Advocacy Competition

2011-2012

National Quarter-Finalists - TYLA National Trial Competition

Regional Champions - TYLA National Trial Competition

Regional Champions - AAJ National Mock Trial Competition

Finalists - ABA Criminal Justice Mock Trial Competition

Semi-Finalists - NITA Tournament of Champions 

Semi-Finalists - National Ethics Competition

Semi-Finalists - Labor and Employment Law Competition 

Semi-Finalists - Peter James Johnson National Civil Rights Competition

2010-2011

Regional Semi-Finalists - AAJ National Mock Trial Competition

Regional Champions - TYLA National Trial Competition

Champions -  Buffalo - Niagara Invitational Mock Trial Competition

Regional Finalists - ABA Labor and Employment Law Trial Competition

Regional Semi-Finalists - ABA Labor and Employment Law Trial Competition

Semi-Finalists - Puerto Rico Criminal Justice Mock Trial Competition

2009-2010

National Champions - NITA Tournament of Champions

National Champions - ABA National Criminal Justice Mock Trial Competition 

Finalists- Buffalo - Niagara Invitational Mock Trial Competition

Regional Quarter-Finalists - TYLA National Trial Competition

2008-2009

Regional Semi-Finalists - AAJ  National Mock Trial Competition

Regional Finalists - ABA Labor and Employment Law Trial Competition

Regional Semi-Finalists - ABA Labor and Employment Law Trial Competition

2007-2008

National Champions - NITA Tournament of Champions

National Finalists - ABA National Criminal Justice Mock Trial Competition

Regional Champions - AAJ National Mock Trial Competition

Regional Semi-Finalists - TYLA National Trial Competition

Regional Quarter-Finalists - TYLA National Trial Competition

Semi-Finalists - Puerto Rico Criminal Justice Mock Trial Competition

Semi-Finalists - Quinnipiac Criminal Justice Mock Trial Competition

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.