Several area high schools are among over 300 taking part in the statewide mock trial competition sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.

The local teams participating are:

Carbon County

Palmerton Area High School.

Schuylkill County

Marian Catholic High School, Blue Mountain High School, Schuylkill Haven High School and Williams Valley High School.

Luzerne County

Hazleton High School and MMI Preparatory School, Freeland.

The competition began this month for 338 teams from 284 schools across the state.

The mock trial program, now in its 31st year, is one of the largest in the nation.

During the competition eight-member student teams are given the opportunity to argue both sides of the case in an actual courtroom before a judge. The students, who play the roles of lawyers, witnesses, plaintiffs, and defendants, are assisted by teacher coaches and lawyer advisers in preparing for competition. Lawyers and community leaders serve as jurors for the mock trials.

The juries determine the winners in each trial based on the teams' abilities to prepare their cases, present arguments and follow court rules.

The district and regional levels of the competition will continue throughout February and March. At the conclusion of the local competitions, 12 high school mock trial teams will advance to the statewide championships, set for March 28 and 29 in Harrisburg. The Pennsylvania Cable Network will record the final round of the competition for later airing.

The winning team of the state championship will represent Pennsylvania in the national mock trial finals to be held May 8-10 in Madison, Wis.

The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation, the charitable affiliate of the state bar association, will provide funding support for the statewide competition.

This year's hypothetical case is a civil trial to determine if a parent or a high school track coach is liable for the death of a student athlete who was taking performance-enhancing drugs.

The case was written by Jonathan A. Grode, Paul W. Kaufman, both of Philadelphia, and Jonathan D. Koltash, of Harrisburg, adapting, with permission, a mock trial case created by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education and the Young Lawyers of Arizona.

The co-chairs of the Mock Trial Executive Committee are Koltash and Traci L. Naugle, of Altoona.

For more information concerning the competition and to read this year's case, go to the Young Lawyers Division's section of the PBA website at http://www.pabar.org. Interested volunteers should contact Maria Engles of the bar association at 1-800-932-0311, extension 2223.