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Bergen Catholic High School Wins 2016 NJ State Bar Foundation's High School Mock Trial Competition


Bergen Catholic High School, Bergen County, captured the coveted state title in the New Jersey State Bar Foundation's 2016 Vincent J. Apruzzese High School Mock Trial Competition finals on March 21 at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. The school goes on to represent New Jersey in the national competition in Boise, Idaho, May 12-15.

In an exciting finish to the months-long series of spirited contests that ended with the student courtroom version of March Madness beginning with a field of 222 school teams, Bergen Catholic edged out Oratory Preparatory School, Union County. This was the Bergen Catholic's third state championship, following victories in 1991 and 2000. In 1991, Bergen Catholic also won the national competition. The school's current triumph in New Jersey places it in the rare company of fellow "three-peaters" Mainland Regional High School, Atlantic County; West Morris Mendham High School, Morris County, Cherry Hill High School East; and Kittatinny Regional High School. Sussex County.

"I'm very happy for them," said coach Peter Coleman, assistant principal for discipline at Bergen Catholic High School, "and very proud. They worked so hard-it's amazing the amount of work they did. They deserved to be at the finals and showed it. I think both teams performed very well, actually." Referencing his school's 1991 state and triumph later that year at the National High School Mock Trial Championship, he added, "I'm looking forward to the national competition--and hoping for a repeat."

The substance of the fictitious criminal case involved a tragic, fatal incident occurring in the dark of night. Almost a year after Super Storm Sandy, homeowner Jordan Abrams and family return to their damaged Jersey shore home. That night, four teenagers break in, resulting in the death of one of the teens, Chris Pavano. Was it self-defense? Or did Abrams shoot Pavano for other reasons? Murder and other charges are the substance of the State v. Jordan Abrams.

In the final round, Oratory presented the state's case and Bergen Catholic represented the defendant, Abrams. The team from third-place finisher Cherry Hill High School West, Camden County, served as jurors. Their courtesy finding matched the actual ruling by New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner and the Hon. Marilyn C. Clark, Presiding Judge, Criminal Division, Passaic County.

Chief Justice Rabner, marking his fifth foray as a mock trial finals judge, and Judge Clark, a mock trial volunteer for the past 15 years, acknowledged that the decision was far from easy. Addressing both eams, Chief Justice Rabner praised their skills, while also providing some helpful tips. "You were all so well prepared," said Justice Rabner to both teams. "It was a joy to watch students who are so gifted, who have worked so hard. You all gave persuasive arguments, knew the case backwards and forwards." Said Judge Clark, "It is a great honor to be here and see how well you performed. I was 25 when I first stepped into a courtroom. You, at 16 or 17, showed remarkable poise and confidence."

The Bergen Catholic team consisted of Owen Anderson, Joseph Barile, Kyle Boemo, Jack Calderwood, Gianni Callegari, Eric Cutler, Allen J. Delgado, Shay Dineen, Kevin Farlese, James Freirich, Albert Gordon, William Haracz, Hanlon Lowell, Jack Melaro, Nikolas Paladino, Daniel J. Ramge, Gianpaolo Uribe and Jay Byeok Yoon. The teacher-coach was Peter Coleman, and the attorney-coach was Kevin Long, Esq.

Oratory Preparatory School's team members were Charlie Arnedt, Fernando Aviles, Ian Barry, Luciano Betman, James Bowe, Ryan Briggs, Joseph D'Angelo, Luigi Franzese, Joseph Garibaldi V, William Mainente, Justin Meisner, Jack Munro, Oscar O'Brien, Justin Rodriguez, Nicholas Sannito, Thomas Snyder, Michael Wandel and James Zangari. Teacher-coaches were Bill Martin Scott Turtur, and the attorney-coaches were John Meehan, Esq. and Robert Scirocco, Esq.

Cherry Hill West's roster consisted of Colleen Clancy, Sean Dugan, Robert Holiday, Florence Hulbert, Tim Intelisano, Hannah Johnston, Nicole Kahn, Danielle King, Will Marble, Josh McCauley, Gabrielle Rash and Aaditi Tamhankar. The teacher-coach was Derek Field.

Approximately 3,000 students from 222 schools across New Jersey registered for the competition this year. The annual Vincent J. Apruzzese High School Mock Trial Competition is sponsored by the New Jersey State Bar Foundation in cooperation with New Jersey's county bar associations and the New Jersey State Bar Association. The competition began in 1982 and has taught more than 100,000 students about the fundamentals of our court system while developing critical thinking and public speaking skills. The Vincent J. Apruzzese High School Mock Trial Competition is made possible by funding from the IOLTA Fund of the Bar of New Jersey. For more information about the competition, please contact Sheila Boro, director of mock trial programs, at 732-937-7519 or [email protected]

Founded in 1958, the New Jersey State Bar Foundation is the educational and philanthropic arm of the New Jersey State Bar Association. The Bar Foundation's mission is to promote public understanding of the law through free programs. Among its activities, the Foundation conducts conferences and conflict resolution training, publishes materials, operates a videotape loan library and speakers bureau, and coordinates elementary, middle and high school mock trial competitions. For more information, visit us online at To make a tax-deductible donation to support the Foundation's work, please go to