Huntington High School’s mock trial team is headed to the state championships in Albany after edging Ward Melville for the Suffolk title by a single point in the ceremonial courtroom at US District Court in Central Islip last week.
The Blue Devils are 7-0 this year so far this season. The victory over Ward Melville in the county finals was the biggest in the Huntington program’s history. It had never before reached the Suffolk championship match. Now the team is on its way to the state finals.
Last week’s match was argued before US District Court Senior Judge Joanna Seybert. Both teams were nearly flawless while presenting their cases. Announcing her decision, Judge Seybert repeatedly complimented both squads, stating they were “so well prepared and unbelievably impressive.” The Blue Devils celebrated their victory with a team dinner at Prime.
Huntington is led by its legal advisors Xavier Palacios, John LoTurco and Jack Piana and faculty advisors Sarah Buchalter and Suzie Biagi. Max Robins is the club president, team captain and lead attorney for the Blue Devils.
Huntington spent many long days and nights preparing for the county championship match, working over the recent spring break as well as on weekends for up to four hours a day. Team members reviewed strategy, discussed every aspect of the case, debated the phrasing and rephrasing of questions and rehearsed exchanges of testimony.
Huntington’s county finals lineup included:
Lawyers: Max Robins, Alyssa Befumo and John Panos
Witnesses: Lena Annunziata, Riley Tucker and Joseph Mead
“With the countless hours of hard work and preparation we’ve put into the entire season, the best part of winning the county championship was being able to experience it as the little family we’ve become,” Ms. Annunziata said. “As for the state finals, we are unsure of what we’re up against, but confident that if we continue to work hard and work together that we will be able to capture the state title.”
The Huntington team members were pumped up following their big win. “The moment our judge announced that we were the county champions, we all couldn’t stop smiling,” Mr. Panos said. “Our parents, teachers and especially our supervisors, Mr. Palacios and Mr. LoTurco could not stop congratulating us, but none of us would be where we are today without any of them. Their constant support and everyone’s undeniable dedication makes us who we are; a family. But it’s not over yet. We still have much more to do, more to fix and plenty more hours to spend together before we take on the challenges at Albany and I couldn’t be happier.”
Sponsored by the New York State Bar Association, the state championships are set for Sunday-Tuesday, May 13-15 in Albany. Trials will be argued at the James T. Foley Federal Courthouse.
“I am incredibly excited about the team’s victory in the county championships,” Ms. Befumo said. “It honestly just goes to prove how consistent hard work pays off. We have no intention of slowing down and plan to give an amazing performance in Albany.”
Huntington team members had a chance to meet and speak with Senior Judge Seybert at US District Court. She earned a BA at the University of Cincinnati and a JD at St. John’s University School of Law. She was a trial attorney with the New York City Legal Aid Society before entering private practice. She later served as a senior staff attorney with the Nassau County Legal Aid Society and then chief of Nassau’s Major Litigation Bureau before a stint as a Nassau District Court judge. President Bill Clinton nominated her to the federal bench on September 24, 1993 and she was confirmed by the US Senate on November 20, 1994.