Central mock trial team advances in competition

Central High School will be one of 14 high schools competing in the 36th annual Pennsylvania Bar Association Statewide High School Mock Trial competition March 29-30, at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg.

Students on Central’s team are Neeley Ayers, Michaela Brown, Dane Cross, Clint Curfman, Isabella Dalansky, Tyson Daughenbaugh, Caden Hazenstab, Lainie Heuston, Luke Knisley, Bobby Lape and Emily Sutton. Brad Heuston is the teacher coach, and the attorney advisers are Warren Crilly III and Katelyn Hoover.

The team was the state level winner of the Region 3 area of competition that includes schools in Blair, Bedford, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Hunting­don, Indiana, Mifflin, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

There were 287 teams from 242 high schools that competed in district and regional levels of the mock trial competition for one of the 14 spots at the statewide level.

The state championship winners will go onto the national mock trial finals that will be held May 16-18 in Athens, Ga.

“For participating students across Pennsylvania, this mock trial competition is more than an academic exercise,” said Alaina C. Koltash of Harrisburg, chairwoman of the association’s Young Lawyers Division. “These students will gain a working knowledge of our justice system, plus successful dispute resolution techniques, and valuable presentation, critical-thinking and teamwork skills that will serve them well throughout their lifetimes.”

The March competition in Harrisburg is sponsored by the PBA Young Lawyers Division.

All 14 teams will participate in two rounds of the competition on March 29. The first round will be at 2 p.m., and the second round will be at 5:30 p.m. The six teams that win their first two rounds will move on to an 8:30 a.m. round on March 30.

The two winners of the March 30 round or the two highest-ranking teams will advance to the state final at 11:30 a.m.

This year’s hypothetical case is a criminal jury trial in which the defendant is a local pain management doctor accused of prescribing opiate painkillers “outside the realm of normal medical practice,” which resulted in the overdose death of a patient, according to a press release.

During the competition, eight-member student teams have the chance to argue both sides of the case in a courtroom before a judge. The students play the roles of lawyers, witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants and are assisted by teacher coaches and lawyer advisers for competition preparation.

Lawyers and community leaders will serve as jurors for the mock trials. The juries determine the winners in each trial based on the teams’ arguments, case preparation and adherence to court rules.

Judge Karoline Mehalchick, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, will preside as judge during the competition.

The hypothetical case was written by Jonathan Grode, Paul Kaufman, PBA Young Lawyers Division Immediate Past Chairman Jonathan Koltash and Talia Charme-Zane, an alumna of the statewide mock trial program and former captain of the CHS team in Philadelphia.

Koltash and the Young Lawyers Division Chair-elect Jennifer Menichini are serving as co-chairs of the mock trial executive committee.

The Pennsylvania Cable Network will record the last round of the competition. It will air statewide at 7 p.m. April 6, at 2:30 p.m. April 7, and at 8 p.m.

April 11. The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation is providing funding support for the broadcast.

For more information about the PBA Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition, visit https://www.pabar.org/site/For-the-Public/Mock-Trial-Competition.