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Over 220 students from 14 area Catholic schools and their families came together at St. John’s Law School on May 18 for the annual Catholic Middle School Mock Trial Program. Celebrating its 11th year, and co-hosted by St. Brigid/Our Lady of Hope Regional School in Westbury, this year’s program was sponsored by the Long Island law firm of Duffy & Duffy, through the generosity of Managing Partner Michael Duffy.

The schools fielded teams to argue People v. P.J. Long, a criminal case that was used in high school mock trial programs throughout New York State. The students spent weeks preparing their cases and practicing with lawyer coaches and mentors. On the day of the mock trial, they presented their cases in a realistic setting with Law School faculty, alumni and friends volunteering as judges.

“The student participants are only 12 or 13 years old,” said Dean Michael A. Simons, one of the co-organizers of the event, “but they act like real trial lawyers ― thinking on their feet, making their arguments with passion and conviction, and then nervously awaiting the verdict. This is a wonderful, hands-on way for them to get an insider’s view of our legal system, practice public speaking, and build their self-confidence. St. John’s Law is committed to opening up the pipeline to law school for students who might not otherwise be exposed to these opportunities.”

Paul Clagnaz, the principal at St. Brigid/Our Lady of Hope and co-organizer of the event, noted how well prepared the students were and how thoughtfully the judges played their role. “This unique annual event stands as a model for the kind of collaborative programs that can immeasurably enrich Catholic education,” he said, acknowledging the innovative partnership between a Catholic law school and the Catholic middle schools. “It is inspiring to be part of it.”
Participating schools were:
• The De La Salle School, Freeport
• Genesis at Xaverian High School, Brooklyn
• Holy Family School, Hicksville
• Notre Dame School, New Hyde Park
• Our Lady of Peace School, Lynbrook
• Our Lady of Victory School, Floral Park
• St. Aidan School, Williston Park
• St. Brigid/Our Lady of Hope Regional School, Westbury
• Ss. Cyril & Methodius School, Deer Park
• St. Dominic, Oyster Bay
• St. Martin de Porres Marianist School, Uniondale
• St. Mary School, East Islip
• St. Peter of Alcantara School, Port Washington
• St. Thomas the Apostle School, West Hempstead
Participating Judges:
• Anna Abrigo, Assistant Director, BAR/BRI
• Samantha Alessi ’11, Assistant District Attorney, Queens County
• Samantha Cucolo ’12, Coordinator in the Nickelodeon Business & Legal Dept., Viacom
• Danielle D’Aquila ’12, Wollmuth Maher & Deutsch, LLP
• Erica Fine ’82, Adjunct Professor, St. John’s Law School
• Kimathi Gordon-Somers, Associate Director, Career Development, St. John’s Law School
• Matthew Mundo, Director of Legal Education, BAR/BRI
• Craig Rokuson ’06, White, Fleischner & Fino, LLP
• Andrew J. Simons ’65, Vice Dean Emeritus, St. John’s Law School
• Michael Smith ’10, Nixon Peabody, LLP
• Frank Torres, Duffy & Duffy
• Kareem Vessup ’04, The Law Office of Kareem R. Vessup
• Kevin Ward ’12, Consultant, Tanteo Spirits