High School of American Studies at Lehman College Wins NYSBA Mock Trial Tournament

By Brendan Kennedy

High School of American Studies at Lehman College Wins NYSBA Mock Trial Tournament

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The High School of American Studies at Lehman College in Bronx County was declared the winner of the 2020-2021 New York State High School Mock Trial Tournament sponsored by the New York State Bar Association. This year’s tournament, which was completely virtual, was held on May 24 and 25.

Returning after a one-year hiatus, the finals pitted the High School of American Studies, the region 6 representative against region 7 representative Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls in Hewlett. U.S. District Judge John P. Cronan, Southern District of New York, presided over the finals and declared the winner after careful consideration.

Each year participating teams are given one case, rotating between a criminal and civil case. This year’s case was a civil case Macca Elery McLaughlin v. Lee and Robbie McLaughlin. This civil lawsuit was brought in New York State Supreme Court under the New York Mock Trial Prudent Investor Act.

This year, 242 teams from across New York participated in the virtual tournament, with the top teams from each of the eight regions making it to the state finals:

  • Region 1 – City Honors School (Erie County)
  • Region 2 – Fayetteville-Manlius High School (Onondaga County)
  • Region 3 – Augustine Classical Academy (Saratoga County)
  • Region 4 – Our Lady of Lourdes High School (Dutchess County)
  • Region 5 – The Dalton School (New York County)
  • Region 6 – The High School of American Studies at Lehman College (Bronx County)
  • Region 7 – Stella K. Abraham High School (Nassau County)
  • Region 8 – Northport High School (Suffolk County)

The High School of American Studies team was coached by Lauren Peterson, a long-time social studies teacher at the school and Sharon Turret, an associate at the Manhattan law firm Dechert. Both have been involved in mock trials as coaches for many years, with Peterson coaching for the past 14 years and Turret being involved for the past three years as an attorney coach.

“We’re very fortunate that the New York City program we participate in pairs public schools with law firms,” Peterson said. “We’re lucky to have such a strong relationship with Dechert because we couldn’t have done this without them.”

During the two-day competition, the winning team took part in two competitive rounds prior to the finals, facing off against 2019 winner Fayetteville-Manlius High School and Augustine Classical Academy.

“All three rounds were exciting and competitive,” said Turret. “We are so thankful to the judges for their time and feedback and the professionalism of the other teams that really pushed our students to give it their best.”

In total, nine judges volunteered to preside over the semi-finals and finals.

“I was very impressed with the performance of both teams,” said Cronan. “Each was extremely well-prepared and it was apparent they put in a tremendous amount of work to prepare for this competition.”

Cronan, a member of NYSBA’s Committee on Law, Youth and Citizenship and a state champion in his home state of New Jersey, is very familiar with mock trials.

“I know what it takes and I realize how valuable it is for young people to participate,” Cronan said. “They’re developing a skill set and work ethic that will benefit their futures, regardless of the career path they take.”

The Mock Trial Tournament was created by the New York State Bar Association in 1978, and the first statewide tournament was held in 1982. The New York State High School Mock Trial Tournament is one of the largest in the country. It is administered by NYSBA’s Committee on Law, Youth and Citizenship and supported by the New York Bar Foundation.

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