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2020-2021 Essay Contest 

Essays are due February 22, 2021

The contest is open to all Connecticut students under the age of 21 who are enrolled in grades 9- 12, or their equivalent, at an accredited high school, vocational-technical school or adult high school credit diploma program (collectively “schools”) located within the State of Connecticut (“Connecticut school”). The contest is also open to all Connecticut homeschooled students in grades equivalent to grades 9-12.


Winner - $2000
Two Runners-Up  - $1000


Essay Topic
"Imitation or Intimidation"

Summary: Two students create paintings as part of a student art assignment that contain notable similarities yet very different messages. Both students are relatively new to the district - one a young black man wishing he could be invisible, the other a Southern transplant trying to make her voice heard. The school district is faced with the question of whether the paintings merely reflect the allowable use of imitation as a tool for artistic expression or whether the message and context of one of the paintings is a form of intimidation that violates district policy. The district turns to you to help assess this and other related questions.

Contest Materials

Essay submissions are judged on content/originality, organization, use of resource materials and writing. The Connecticut Bar Foundation and the James W. Cooper Fellows do not represent or endorse the accuracy or the reliability of any of the information, content, sources, or statements contained in any student essay contest entry in the Connecticut Bar Foundation James W. Cooper Fellows Quintin Johnstone 2020-2021 Statewide High School Essay Contest.


2019-2020 Essay Contest Award Winners

To access the winning essays, click on the name of each winner.

The Essay Contest Award Ceremony is usually held at the Connecticut Supreme Court in early June.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in place of the award ceremony we have gathered these special tributes to the winners:



About the Essay Contest

Now it its 21st year, the Essay Contest was started by the Foundation’s James W. Cooper Fellows in 2000. The purpose of the essay contest is to get young people in Connecticut thinking about and exploring legal issues relevant to them.

In 2011, the Essay Contest was named after Quintin Johnstone, who was a professor at Yale Law School before his death in 2014. Johnstone served as past president of the Connecticut Bar Foundation, participated in a variety of Fellows projects for many years, and was a longtime member of the Fellows Education and Program Committee, which helps to organize Fellows projects like the annual Essay Contest.

This year’s contest generated 89 entries from 29 schools across Connecticut. The Foundation thanks the student participants, and the schools and teachers who supported them, for participating in this year’s contest.

We also wish to thank the Connecticut Supreme Court for their support of the Essay Contest each year and the over 140 attorneys and judges from across Connecticut participated in reviewing and scoring the essays this year. Justices and judges who participated in the final round of judging this year were: Justice Maria Kahn, Justice Richard Palmer, Senior Justice Christine Vertefeuille, Judge Alexandra DiPentima, and Judge Maureen Dennis.


  • Essay Contest Subcommittee

    Robert A. Harris, Chair
    Peter Arakas
    Hon. Barry F. Armata
    Vanessa Roberts Avery
    Andrea Barton Reeves
    Hon. Juliett L. Crawford
    Timothy A. Diemand
    Gary R. Gold
    Tamara Kagan Levine
    William Logue
    Justine C. Rakich-Kelly
    Hon. Angela C. Robinson
    Daniel A. Schwartz
    Jack G. Steigelfest
    Allan B. Taylor
    S. Dave Vatti