History and Growth

Empire Mock Trial was founded in 2007 by Justin Matarrese and his father, Gregory P. Matarrese. In that inaugural year, 11 schools (12 teams) participated in a mock trial competition in New York City. Since that time, the Empire New York has grown to include 40 of the world’s most accomplished teams in a competition that is known as the World Championship. Empire Mock Trial has also expanded to the West Coast of the United States with Empire San Francisco and to the college level with the Downtown Invitational in New York. The organization’s alumni network–the Empire Family–includes over 2000 students from six countries and 31 states.

Prior to the founding of Empire Mock Trial, Justin competed on New York University’s mock trial team, where he recognized that mock trial could act as a vehicle for engaging young people in their country’s legal system and encouraging active, global citizenship. Empire Mock Trial was born when Justin saw an opportunity to develop a one-of-a-kind mock trial experience while working as an adviser for the Tottenville High School mock trial team on Staten Island. An international mock trial competition could be an incredible pedagogical opportunity for Tottenville students and for young people from around the world.

Empire New York has seen growth in the number of participants each year. The addition of Empire San Francisco provides opportunities for more students to reap the educational and social rewards of participating in Empire Mock Trial events. From the very beginning, the Empire team has worked to incorporate additional social programming into every event so that students have a chance to personally connect and grow alongside a cohort of diverse peers who will form both their social network and eventually their professional network. Today, the opening ceremony, Empire Exchange, boat cruise, closing dance, and world-class locations have become as crucial to the Empire experience as the trials themselves.

Empire is supported by a dedicated team of volunteers who make up the Empire Mock Trial Board of Directors and staff, led by Executive Director Justin Matarrese. This “family” works year-round to develop and implement Empire events. The programs would not be possible without the organization’s cohort of volunteers, most of whom are former competitors, that pledge their time during event weekends to deliver the high-quality Empire Mock Trial experience.


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