Augustine Classical Wins 2024 New York State Bar Association Mock Trial Competition

By Jennifer Andrus

May 21, 2024

Augustine Classical Wins 2024 New York State Bar Association Mock Trial Competition


By Jennifer Andrus

Augustine Classical Academy, a small Saratoga County Christian school, bested an impressive prosecution put on by Clarence High School from Erie County to win the New York State Bar Association Mock Trial Competition.

The fictional criminal case, the People of the State of Nivana v. Lindsay Gordon, involved a business owner charged with 3rd degree Arson following the destruction of her business, Gordon Paint Supplies. The criminal investigation revealed that Gordon was in debt and facing bankruptcy while also maintaining a $2 million insurance policy on the business.

The courtroom was filled to capacity with students, parents and advisers watching the final match when Emily Kist of Clarence High School rose to present her opening statement. With poise and a clear voice, she laid out the prosecution’s case detailing the motive and opportunity for Gordon to commit the crime.

The defense team of Hannah Trouwborst, Carter Van Amburgh and Dominic Marra used a strategy focusing on tearing apart the arson investigation and attacking the credibility of its investigator Kelly Severide. The defense also focused on a disgruntled former employee, Pat Weaver, as a potential suspect in the crime. Gordon’s attorney accused the investigator of confirmation bias and having tunnel vision in focusing on his client as a suspect. For nearly three hours, the teams examined and cross examined several witnesses including Gordon who took the stand in her own defense.

Attorneys from both teams handled examinations and objections with confidence and stamina before Justice Eddie J. McShan of the Appellate Division, Third Department. Following closing arguments, Justice McShan found Gordon not guilty of arson, handing the win to the Augustine Classical team.

Justice McShan called the performance of both teams exceptional, citing a close final score between the teams. He called special attention to the students who played witnesses in the case. “Witnesses often don’t get credit, but they should. They can really make your case,” he said.

The statewide program involves thousands of New York high school students competing at the local, county and regional levels. The eight regional champions compete over two days in Albany each May. The top two teams face off in the final match held at the James T. Foley Federal Courthouse in Albany.

Both Augustine Classical and Clarence High School have experience competing in the final stages of mock trial. In an interview earlier this month, Clarence’s Lily Post offered insight into the team strategy.

“We are constantly reworking things to best suit the chemistry of our team,” she said. “We have a pretty senior team this year, so we’ve all worked together for years, and just really have that chemistry. You can see it when we compete.”

In a show of team unity and celebration, the Augustine Classical team, still gathered in the courtroom, sang a sacred harp hymn “Antioch” used as their fight song this year. Coach Thomas Trouwborst says its speaks to the goals they set for the team each year.

“We want to honor the Lord, have fun while we are doing it and we want to win medals,” he said.

Augustine Classical team joined by Justice Eddie McShan.
(L-R) Thomas Trouwborst, coach, Hannah Trouwborst, Nora Catalano, Carter Van Amburgh, Isabelle West, Dominic Marra, Effie MacKenzie, Sophie Van Amburgh, Caleb Gascoyne, David Zhao, Ethan Gossman, Elliot Gorss, Ethan West, Justice Eddie McShan (center).

Check out our Flickr album with pictures from the Mock Trial Finals.


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