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Statewide Mock Trial Competition Promotes Better Understanding of Legal Profession

Area high school students will test their legal knowledge and litigation skills in the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s 19th Annual Statewide Mock Trial Competition, which begins this week at the Lycoming County Courthouse.

The competition, which is sponsored by the PBA’s Young Lawyers Division, provides students with a better understanding of the legal profession and judicial system, said S. Layne Russell, an attorney and assistant professor of Legal Studies at Pennsylvania College of Technology. Russell serves as coordinator for the District II, Region 4 mock trials.

The Legal Assistant Association, a Penn College student activity, endorses the mock trials and has offered area teams the opportunity to rehearse against its own mock trial team in preparation for the competition. The association’s members also will serve as evaluating jurors and assistants in the competition.

Russell commended Joann L. Eichenlaub of Montgomery, the president of the association, for her outstanding support. He said Legal Studies students will work “elbow to elbow” with area attorneys, judges, court personnel and media for the event.

“Truly, we could not ask for a better group of ambassadors to the area of counties represented,” Russell said.

More than 200 schools participate in the program each year, making it one of the largest such competitions nationwide. Teams consist of eight students who play the roles of lawyers, witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants. The proceedings take place in an actual courtroom and are presided over by a county judge, with local attorneys acting as jurors.

The jury determines winners in each trial based on a team’s ability to prepare its case, present its arguments and follow court rules. Students are assisted by a faculty coach and attorney adviser. Teams participate in district competitions, with winners advancing to regional, state and national competitions.

A portion of the Region 4, District II (Northcentral) competition will take place on Thursday, Feb. 24, and Thursday, March 2, at the Lycoming County Courthouse. District II includes high schools in Bradford, Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga and Union counties.

On Thursday, Feb. 24, Northeast Bradford High School (plaintiff) will face Bald Eagle High School (defendant) at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 1 at the courthouse. At 1:30 p.m., Montoursville Area High School (plaintiff) will oppose Williamsport Area High School (defendant).

On Thursday, March 2, Montoursville Area High School (plaintiff) will face Northeast Bradford High School (defendant) at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 1. At 1:30 p.m., State College High School (plaintiff) will square off against Williamsport Area High School (defendant).

For more information about this year’s PBA Mock Trial Competition, contact Russell at Penn College at 326-3761, ext. 2730.

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