Welcoming mock trial teams to Hartford at Dunkin Donuts Stadium were, from left to right, Dean Brown of Quinnipiac Law School, Ms. USA, Mayor Bronin, Miss USA Princess Mara DeLuco and Mrs. USA. Courtesy photo

Hundreds of students, volunteers, attorneys and judges took part in the National High School Mock Trial Championship hosted by Civics First in Hartford recently.

The event, which pits students from around the country and a few international locations against each other in courtroom settings, takes place in a different state every year. Civics First Executive Director Beth Deluco said it took two and a half years to organize the competition.

“It was fantastic,” Deluco, a lawyer, said. “We had a lot of supporters and about 1,200 people in all participating, between the teams, the volunteers, the coaches and the observers.” Lawyers and state and federal judges volunteered time to assess students’ performances at mock trial in actual Hartford courtrooms. About 30,000 students across the country participate in the program leading up to the national event.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin helped celebrate the event landing in Hartford, along with Ms. and Mrs. USA Universal pageant winners Kristina Marinkovich and Kimberly Beaudoin.

Winning top honors in this year’s competition was the North Carolina team, followed by teams from Michigan and Georgia. Tennessee and Texas rounded out the top five. Connecticut came in 20th out of 46 teams. Awards were given for “best attorney,” “best witness” and courtroom artists, among others.

Deluco said Civics First promotes civic and law education throughout the year at elementary, middle and high schools throughout Connecticut. “We are always looking for volunteers and support for our state programs,” she said, adding that the organization hosts mock trials at high schools and middle schools, a We the People project and school forensics competitions with mock crime scene investigations. Civics First’s Constitution Day contest happens in September, featuring an art and essay contest for grade-schoolers. For information, visit civicsfirst.org.