Duquesne University law student from Jeannette lauded for talent

Mary Pickels
| Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012, 10:22 p.m.

Law student Jaime Hickton gave it her all to beat out more than 60 student prosecution and defense attorneys to win “Best Closing Argument” during the recent national Buffalo-Niagara Mock Trial Competition.

Rising to a challenge is typical of Hickton, 28, of Jeannette, who works full-time for the Westmoreland County Office of Juvenile Probation and is a fourth-year student in Duquesne University School of Law's evening program. She plans to graduate in the spring.

Her work as a probation officer requires her to spend a lot of time in courtrooms.

“I felt like it gave me confidence, real-world experience, at mock trial,” she said.

Her role models include her late grandfather, John “Jack” Hickton, who served as Allegheny County district attorney in the 1970s. Her uncle is David Hickton, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and a former adjunct law professor at Duquesne.

“With my family, you find something to be passionate about and give 110 percent. You go after it and don't let anything stand in your way,” Jaime Hickton said.

“As long as I can remember, I've thought Jaime wanted to be a lawyer. I talked to her a lot about it,” David Hickton said.

His niece is intelligent and compassionate, he said.

“Her overarching quality is her passion. When she is interested in something, she does not do it halfway. That's a really great quality on behalf of clients,” he said.

Hickton received her undergraduate degree from Seton Hill University, where she had a double major in political science and history.

Duquesne Law School professor and trial team coach Michael Streib said Hickton's award at the Nov. 9-11 invitational, held at SUNY Buffalo Law School, was prestigious.

“Jaime is completely comfortable in the courtroom. She can communicate. We can all talk, but she knows how to communicate,” Streib said.

Handling the closing argument required Hickton to work without a script, Streib said.

“She has absolutely wonderful composure,” he said.

The mock trial case, a homicide, had a tinge of black humor, Hickton said, involving the disgruntled assistant of a television food show conspiring with an unhappy contestant to “off” the judge.

The Duquesne team advanced to the quarterfinal round of the competition, ultimately won by Northwestern University School of Law.

“Jaime Hickton is unbelievably talented,” said adjunct professor Sara Brown, another team coach. “She was supposed to be a defense closer. After I saw her and how she presented herself, I told Professor Streib, ‘Look, she needs to be a prosecution closer.'”

She and Hickton spent two days before the competition burning the midnight oil, Brown said.

“I will give that girl credit. With everything she had going on, she kept working and working. ... I don't know anybody who worked harder and faster, without complaining,” she said.

“I've jokingly kidded with her, telling her, ‘I'll see you in court, and it will be a battle, girl.' She will be 100 percent capable of handling whatever her employer throws at her,” Brown said.

Hickton hopes to become a prosecutor or civil litigator.

“If I had my choice, I would love to work for a district attorney's office. Because of my responsibility as a probation officer, it's given me a unique perspective on a lot of injustices victims go through. ... I can see both sides of the coin. Some defendants maybe have been wrongfully charged and need someone to defend them,” Hickton said.

She is proud to have chosen the same career path as several family members.

“I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I never felt pressure. Just seeing their passion and knowing I had that same fire, it kind of opened the door for me to walk through,” Hickton said.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for TribTotal Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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