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St. John’s gets new courtroom for mock trials

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In a lavish April 9 ceremony that included hardcover, full-color programs and a speech by a Court of Appeals chief judge, St. John’s University School of Law unveiled and dedicated a totally refurbished, high-tech courtroom for student mock trials and classes.

At a cost of $2.5 million, the renovated Belson Moot Courtroom will be one of the most modern and attractive classroom courtrooms in the country, law school staff and administration claim.

“I’ve worked at another law school and this is not the first moot courtroom I’ve seen, but it’s absolutely the nicest,” said Theresa McNerney, assistant director of admissions for the school.

The courtroom and its adjoining jury room and classrooms include high-speed Internet access, video cameras that record for later observation or transmit live images via closed-circuit television, and a projection system with components that descend from the ceiling “like something out of a James Bond movie,” said Claire Pollicino, assistant to the dean of the law school.

In addition to its technical innovations, the courtroom boasts stadium seating, leather judges’ chairs and wood paneling so polished that it reflects the sunlight filtering in through the courtroom’s two sweeping windows. The previous courtroom had no windows.

“It’s amazing. The old one was kind of dreary and seemed a little outdated, but this one seems state-of-the-art and really well put together,” said third-year law student Adam Tarsitano, who was studying amid the air-conditioned silence and the smell of fresh furniture in one of the new classrooms.

Some of the devices in the courtroom mirror technology in use or taking a foothold in current courtrooms, such as Internet connectivity, said Linda Ryan, assistant dean for library and information resources. Other aspects, like video recording capabilities, function as learning devices that allow students to review and critique their mock courtroom performances.

The renovation was made possible by a gift from Maxine and Jerry Belson, who also funded the Belson soccer stadium currently under construction, among other contributions. The Belsons dedicated the courtroom to Belson’s father during last week’s ceremony. Judith Kaye, chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, gave the keynote speech at the dedication.

Reach reporter Patricia Demchak by e-mail at timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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