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Clarence High School Mock Trial Team Finds Success, Learns Life Skills

Clarence High School Mock Trial Team Finds Success, Learns Life Skills
Updated

Members of Clarence High School’s Mock Trial team said their teamwork and dedication to learning is making the difference as they have found success in area competition.

“It’s the work that’s been put in over multiple years that’s paid off,” said Lillian Post, a senior co-captain of the team. “It’s the extra work we’ve put in learning trial procedures, being off our notes and thinking on our feet that’s given us the advantage.” 

The team recently won the Erie County Mock Trial Competition for the first time since 2018, qualifying the team to compete at the regional competition on May 4 in Buffalo. On the line: An opportunity to appear at the state-level competition in Albany. 

Teams in the event are given the same evidence and witnesses for an annual mock case, which this year revolves around a criminal prosecution and defense of an alleged arson for insurance scheme. The student teams present each side of the case, and are evaluated based on their opening and closing statements, their witness examinations and evidentiary objections during proceedings along with their professionalism. 

Ronald DiNicolantonio, the team’s faculty advisor, said students’ knowledge of the information and their ability to respond to objections in real time can make the difference to judges. 

“No two cases are identical,” he said. 

The area competitions are held in real courtrooms, with students evaluated by top judges in the region and state.

“To face the judge and face the opposing teams, it brings it to life,” said Emily Kist, a senior and fellow co-captain of the team.

Making up this year’s team are Noah Przytulski, Ethan Przytulski, Madeline Heckman, Gemma Hacker, Megan Ippolito, Emily Kist, Lily Tucker, Luke Carey, Nora Swiencicki, Alyssa Carlson, Lillian Post and Rachel Rouse. The team’s attorney advisors are Justin Kloss, Partner at Kloss Stenger & Gormley LLP, Mitchell Snyder, Associate at Phillips Lytle LLP, and Courtney Dec, Associate at The Dec Firm. Kloss and Snyder are former students of DiNicolantonio.

Many of the students found their way to the team after taking DiNicolantonio’s business law class. The class introduces students to the concepts of criminal and civil legal cases as well as Constitutional law, with a goal of building students’ communication and analytical skills.

“It doesn’t matter what you do, you have to have good communication skills and be able to think on your feet,” DiNicolantonio said. “These skills apply everywhere.”

Many team members, including Lillian and Emily, say they want to attend law school in the future. The team’s success has allowed them the opportunity to meet area lawyers through the Bar Association of Erie County.

“You get to talk to people doing what you want to do,” Lillian said. “You don’t get that in the classroom.”

The team last won the regional championship in 2017 and the state championship in 2015. DiNicolantonio said this year’s team reminded him of those successful squads. 

“What makes these teams special is their commitment to hard work,” he said. “They’re putting in the time to win this competition, and develop the chemistry of this team. The talent here and their abilities are amazing to me.”

May 22, 2024 Update: The Clarence High School Mock Draft team finished in second place in New York after winning the regional competition and qualifying for the New York State Bar Association Mock Trial Competition for the first time since 2017. Congratulations to all of the student team members as well as the team’s attorney advisers for a successful season!

Clarence High School's Mock Trial team poses for a photo with Justice Eddie J. McShan of the Appellate Division, Third Department, after competing in the finals of the New York State Bar Association Mock Trial Competition.
Emily Kist, a senior and co-captain of Clarence High School's Mock Trial team, takes part in the finals of the New York State Bar Association Mock Trial Competition.  
Lillian Post, a senior co-captain of Clarence High School's Mock Trial team, takes part in the finals of the New York State Bar Association Mock Trial Competition.
Members of Clarence High School’s Mock Trial team pose for a photo with Hon. Carl L. Bucki, Chief Judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York.
Members of Clarence High School’s Mock Trial team are recognized by the Bar Association of Erie County after winning the Erie County Mock Trial Competition.