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Moot court (or "mooting") is an extracurricular activity at many law schools in which participants take part in simulated court proceedings, usually involving drafting written submissions and then participating in oral argument. Typically students are provided with a hypothetical fact scenario which raises various legal issues, and are allocated as counsel for one of the parties to the dispute. Students are required to research the relevant legal principles and then present a case in favour of their allocated side. During the course of oral argument, students are asked questions by the bench concerning the merits of their arguments. The adjudicators can be academics, lawyers, or other students.
Typically the dispute is set to be heard before an appellate court in which the facts are not contested, leaving the students to debate the law and its application. Moot problems can often involve issues about unsettled areas of law or the application of existing principles to novel cases. A moot is generally not won and lost solely on the legal argument, but also on the advocacy skills of the participants.
Moot court is also used in some countries by practicing lawyers in preparation for appellate argument.
Nature and function
Mooting can be traced to at least the establishment of the Inns of Court in medieval England. The term "moot" traces its origins to Anglo-Saxon times, when a moot (gemōt) was a gathering of prominent men in a locality to discuss matters of local importance.
The modern activity of mooting differs from a mock trial, as moot court usually refers to a simulated appellate court or arbitral case, while a mock trial usually refers to a simulated jury trial or bench trial. Moot court does not involve actual testimony by witnesses, cross-examination, or the presentation of evidence, but is focused solely on the application of the law to a common set of evidentiary assumptions and facts to which the competitors are introduced. In most countries, the phrase "moot court" may be shortened to simply "moot" or "mooting." Participants are either referred to as "mooters" or "mooties".
Depending on the competition, students may spend a semester researching and writing the memorials, and another semester practicing their oral arguments, or may prepare both within the span of a few months. Whereas domestic moot court competitions tend to focus on municipal law such as criminal law or contract law, regional and international moot competitions tend to focus on subjects such as public international law, international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law, international trade law, international maritime law, international commercial arbitration, and foreign direct investment arbitration. Procedural issues pertaining to jurisdiction, standing, and choice of law are also occasionally engaged, especially in arbitration moots.
In most moot competitions, each side is represented by two speakers (though the entire team composition may be larger) and a third member, sometimes known as "of counsel", may be seated with the speakers or in the audience. Each speaker usually speaks between 10 and 25 minutes, covering anywhere from one to three issues. After the main submissions are completed, there will usually be a short round of rebuttal and even surebuttal. Depending on the format of the moot, there may be one or two rounds of rebuttal and surebuttal. In larger competitions, teams have to participate in up to ten rounds. The knockout/elimination stages are usually preceded by a number of preliminary rounds to determine seeding. Teams almost always must switch sides throughout a competition, and, depending on the format of the moot, the moot problem usually remains the same throughout. The scores of the written submissions are taken into consideration for most competitions to determine qualification and seeding, and sometimes even up to a particular knockout stage.
In some countries, moot court is also used by lawyers to prepare for an oral argument, usually before an appellate court. In these cases, the lawyer who is scheduled to present argument invites two or three colleagues to read the briefs of both parties and prepare questions about areas they find problematic. The lawyer scheduled to present argument practices his or her argument before the other lawyers, who are playing the role of judges. These judges can attempt to anticipate the questions the court is likely to ask, so that the lawyer presenting argument is ready with useful responses. Moot court judges can also provide guidance by suggesting approaches to the case that the court may be likely to take.
Moot court in different countries
England and Wales
In England and Wales the moot will typically simulate proceedings in either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court. Moot questions generally involve two questions of law that are under dispute and come with a set of facts about the case that have been decided at the first instance trial. Generally the question will surround a subject that is unclear under the present state of the law and for which no direct precedent exists. Mooting is a team effort, consisting of senior or lead counsel and junior counsel. It is normal practice for the senior counsel to take on the first point and the junior the second; although this may vary depending upon the exact nature, and necessary length, of the arguments. Typically the question will focus on one area of law, such as tort, contract, criminal law or property law.
The question will be provided to the teams a few weeks in advance of the moot along with details as to which of the appellant or respondent they are to represent. It is then up to each team to prepare their case as though they were barristers. Authority for each argument is necessary and will usually take the form of precedent from case law but may also involve legislation. Reliance may also be placed on governmental papers, research from NGOs and academic journals and texts.
A few days before the moot takes place each team will prepare and exchange their skeleton arguments or brief. Copies will also be provided to the judge along with the moot problem. The judge is normally an academic or practising solicitor or barrister. The moot itself takes the form of an oral argument. The order in which the advocates will speak mirrors that of the actual courts the exercise is based upon. The competition may also allow the appellants an additional few minutes in order to reply to the respondents arguments.
After the presentation of arguments has concluded, the judge will retire to deliberate on both the law and the overall winning of the moot.
In India, notable moot competitions include the Surana & Surana International Technology Law Moot Court Competition, Surana & Surana National Corporate Law Moot Court Competition, and Surana & Surana National Trial Advocacy Moot Court Competition.
In Scotland a moot can be set in a variety of fora; in civil law problems it is set most commonly in either the Inner House of the Court of Session or in the House of Lords, although it is not uncommon for a moot to be heard in the Sheriff Court before the Sheriff or Sheriff Principal. Occasionally, an Employment Appeal Tribunal may also be used as a forum for a Scottish civil law moot. If the moot problem concerns Criminal Law, the moot will most likely be heard as though in the Appellate division of the High Court of Justiciary (commonly known as the Court of Criminal Appeal).
The moot points and style of the problem are similar to that of England and Wales stated above; however, the format of the moot is significantly different. Junior counsel is more likely to take the first moot point and senior counsel the second (this can however be reversed depending on the problem). The order in which the Advocates will speak mirrors that of the actual courts the exercise is based upon. Generally, Scottish competitions do not allow the appellants a final right of rebuttal of the respondents' arguments.
The format of the moot is far more adversarial than that of English and Welsh moots. This is primarily due to a more adversarial legal system. This manifests itself in different ways, most notably with the appellants and respondents facing each other during a moot, rather than, as in England and Wales, facing the judge.
There is only one national Scottish competition, the Alexander Stone National Legal Debate, administered by the Law School at the University of Glasgow. All Scottish universities that offer the LL.B. are eligible to take part, although in recent years the competition has been fought out mainly between Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde universities. The final is held in the Alexander Stone Court Room at the University of Glasgow in February or March each year. The current holder of the trophy is Strathclyde.
There is also an annual inter-varsity competition between the Law Schools of Glasgow and Strathclyde, in the form of the Glasgow Sheriff's Cup. This is organised by Glasgow Sheriff Court and is judged by a Senator of the College of Justice. The moot is held annually in May or June each year and takes place in one of the larger court rooms at Glasgow and Strathkelvin Sheriff Court. The current holder of the trophy is Glasgow, while Glasgow University lead the series 11-9.
Law Schools in Scotland also take part in UK-wide competitions, such as the Oxford University Press and the English Speaking Union Moot. These moots are UK-wide in participation, but typically follow the style and law of moots in England and Wales. The University of Glasgow reached the semi-final of the English Speaking Union moot in 2008 and the final in 2005. The University of Dundee reached the semi finals of The Oxford University Press moots in 2009.
Judges in Scottish moots are typically legal academics, solicitors, sheriffs, advocates or Senators of the College of Justice.
In the United States, undergraduates participate in moot court in a variety of disciplines and a variety of settings. The most common are in-class exercises that are assigned by professors. Other schools form competitive teams.
Law schools structure their moot court programs differently. Some moot court organizations accept a small group of people for membership, and those members each participate in a number of national or regional moot court competitions. Other schools accept a larger number of members, and each member is matched with one competition. A few schools conduct moot court entirely intramurally. Moot court competitions are typically sponsored by organizations with interest in one particular area of law, and the moot court problems address an issue in that field. Competitions are often judged by legal practitioners with expertise in the particular area of law, or sometimes by sitting judges.
The basic structure of a moot court competition roughly parallels what would happen in actual appellate practice. Participants will typically receive a problem ahead of time, which includes the facts of the underlying case, and often an opinion from a lower court that is being challenged in the problem. Students must then research and prepare for that case as if they were lawyers or advocates for one or sometimes both of the parties. Depending on the competition, participants will be required to submit written briefs, participate in oral argument, or both. The case or problem is often one of current interest, sometimes mimicking an actual case, and sometimes fabricated to address difficult legal issues.
A number of moot court competitions focus on specific areas of law. For example, the First Amendment Center annually holds a National First Amendment Moot Court Competition, in which the judges have included numerous United States Circuit Court Judges.
International moot competitions
International moot competitions are generally targeted at students and only allow participants who have not qualified to practice law in any jurisdiction. However, there are a handful of international moot competitions that are targeted at young lawyers, such as the ECC-SAL Moot, which is a regional moot started in 2012 and is jointly organised by Essex Court Chambers and the Singapore Academy of Law.
Notable international moot court competitions include:
|Competition||Established||Primary subject matter||Record annual participation||Location of international finals||National or regional rounds|
|Philip C. Jessup||1960 (1968 for international rounds)||Public international law||625 teams||Washington D.C.||Yes|
|Willem C. Vis Moot||1993||International commercial arbitration||367 teams (2017)||Vienna||No|
|Willem C. Vis (East)||2003||International commercial arbitration||127 teams (2017)||Hong Kong||No|
|Price Media Law Moot||2008||International media law||140 teams (2012)||Oxford||Yes|
|International Criminal Court Moot||2005 (2007 for international rounds)||International criminal law||112 teams (2016)||The Hague||Yes|
|Frankfurt Investment Arbitration Moot Court||2007||International investment arbitration||63 teams (2016)||Frankfurt||Yes|
|Foreign Direct Investment International Arbitration Moot||2008||Investor-state dispute settlement||Varies||Yes|
|Hague Choice of Court Convention Moot||2014||Private international law||Yes|
|Asia Cup||1999||Public international law||40 teams (2011)||Tokyo||Qualification by written submissions|
|LAWASIA||2005||International commercial arbitration||40 teams (2011)||Varies||Yes|
|WTO/FTA Moot||2010 (2015 for international rounds)||World Trade Organisation||22 teams (2015)||Seoul||No|
|ELSA World Trade Organisation Moot||2002||World Trade Organisation||90 teams (2016)||Geneva||Yes|
|ELSA European Human Rights Moot Court Competition||2012||European Convention on Human Rights||Strasbourg||Qualification by written submissions|
|Red Cross (Asia-Pacific) IHL Moot||2003 (2004 for international rounds)||International humanitarian law||80 teams (2016)||Hong Kong||Yes|
|International Law Youth for Peace||2006||International humanitarian law||35 teams||Minsk||No|
|International Maritime Law Arbitration Moot||2000||International maritime law||26 teams (2016)||Varies||No|
|Jean-Pictet||1989 (2000 for the English-speaking rounds)||International humanitarian law||56 teams (2015)||Varies||No|
|African Human Rights Moot Court Competition||1992||Human rights in Africa||Varies within Africa||No|
|D.M. Harish||2000 (2005 for international teams)||Public international law||40 teams||Mumbai||No|
|Oxford Intellectual Property Law Moot||2004||Intellectual property law||48 teams (2016)||Oxford||Qualification by written submissions|
|International Environmental Moot Court Competition||1995||International environmental law||20 teams||Gulfport, Florida||Yes|
|International Moot Competition on Maritime Arbitration||2010||International maritime law||Odessa||No|
|World Human Rights Moot Court Competition||2009||International human rights law||Pretoria||Yes|
|Telders International Law Moot Court Competition||1977||Public international law||30 teams||The Hague||Yes|
|Sir Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot||1992 (1993 for international rounds)||Space law||40 teams||Varies||Yes|
|IASLA Space Law Moot||2010||Space law||12 teams||Varies||Yes|
List of champions and first runners-up
|Year||Jessup||Vis||Vis East||Price||Frankfurt Investment||International Criminal Court||Space (Lachs)||LAWASIA||IHL Asia-Pacific||Asia Cup||Maritime||IP||Jean Pictet||International Law YFP|
|2016||University of Buenos Aires/University of Pennsylvania||University of Buenos Aires/Singapore Management University||Chinese University of Hong Kong/Singapore Management University||Singapore Management University/Jindal Global Law School||Bucerius Law School/National University of Singapore||Singapore Management University||National and Kapodistrian University, Athens/Obafemi Awolowo University||Singapore Management University/West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences||Queensland University of Technology/Singapore Management University||National University of Singapore/Ateneo Law School||University of Sydney/Singapore Management University||University of Ottawa/National Law School of India University||Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights|
|2015||University of Sydney/Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile||University of Ottawa/Singapore Management University||Singapore Management University/University of Arizona||University of the Philippines/Singapore Management University||Jindal Global Law School/Singapore Management University||Singapore Management University||University of Mississippi/National and Kapodistrian University of Athens||Advance Tertiary College/National Law University, Jodhpur||Victoria University of Wellington/University of Hong Kong||University of Malaya/Singapore Management University||National University of Singapore/University of Hong Kong||National Law School of India University/Monash University||National University of Singapore||National University of Kyiv/?|
|2014||University of Queensland/Singapore Management University||Deakin University/National Law School of India University||Loyola University Chicago/Universiteit van Amsterdam||Jindal Global Law School/University of Oxford||University of Miami–Sciences Po||National Law University, Delhi||National Law University, Delhi/Florida State University||Singapore Management University/Chinese University of Hong Kong||University of Adelaide/National Law University, Jodhpur||Singapore Management University/Universitas Padjadjaran||Universitas Indonesia/Maastricht University||University of Hong Kong/University of Toronto||University of Virginia||Leiden University/Lund University|
|2013||National Law School of India University/Singapore Management University||City University of Hong Kong/Monash University||University of Canberra/University of Münster||National Law University, Delhi/Regent University||Stockholm University/Peking University||Leiden University||Georgetown University/Leiden University||Singapore Management University/Taylor's University||National Law University, Delhi/Australian National University||Ateneo Law School/Singapore Management University||University of Queensland/National University of Singapore||University of Ottawa/National Law University, Delhi||University of New South Wales||Institute of International Relations of Cuba/Tbilisi State University|
|2012||Moscow State University/Columbia University||Nalsar University of Law/University College London||City University of Hong Kong/University of Houston||Nalsar University of Law/University of Technology Sydney||Norman Manley Law School/University of Versailles||City University of Hong Kong||National Law School of India University/National and Kapodistrian University of Athens||Chinese University of Hong Kong/Singapore Management University||University of Hong Kong/University of Melbourne||Ateneo Law School/Singapore Management University||University of Queensland/Queensland University of Technology||Queensland University of Technology/University of Oxford||Université Libre de Bruxelles||Leiden University-Universiteit van Amsterdam/Moscow State University|
|2011||University of Sydney/Columbia University||University of Ottawa/University of Montevideo||Bond University/City University of Hong Kong||Belgrade Law School/Cardozo School of Law||University of Miami/Graduate Institute Geneva||Bond University||Florida State University/National University of Singapore||Advance Tertiary College/Singapore Management University||Victoria University of Wellington/Hidayatullah National Law University||Singapore Management University/Ateneo Law School||Murdoch University/University of Southampton||London School of Economics/University of Hong Kong||Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya||Singapore Management University–National University of Singapore/Symbiosis Law School|
|2010||Australian National University/Columbia University||King's College London/University of Ottawa||Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg/Deakin University||Singapore Management University/Cardozo School of Law||Georgetown University/George Washington University||Osgoode Hall Law School||George Washington University/National University of Singapore||National Law University, Delhi/Advance Tertiary College||University of Hong Kong/Universiti Utara Malaysia||Singapore Management University/Universitas Pelita Harapan||National University of Singapore/Murdoch University||Boston University/Queensland University of Technology||Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya||?/Symbiosis Law School|
|2009||Universidad de los Andes/University College London||Victoria University of Wellington/University of Pune||Loyola Law School/Stetson University||Cardozo School of Law/BPP Law School||La Trobe University/City University of Hong Kong||Bond University||National Law School of India University/Georgetown University||Advance Tertiary College/Singapore Management University||Universitas Indonesia/Gujarat National Law University||University of the Philippines/Kathmandu School of Law||University of Queensland/Universitas Indonesia||Queensland University of Technology/University of Edinburgh||Université de Caen||?|
|2008||Case Western Reserve University/University of New South Wales||Carlos III University of Madrid/Touro Law Center||Griffith University||International Islamic University of Malaysia/?||Martin Luther University||NA||University of New South Wales/University of Augsburg||University of Hong Kong/University of the Philippines||National University of Singapore/Multimedia University||Ateneo Law School/University of Hong Kong||University of Queensland/University of Notre Dame Australia||National University of Singapore||Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais||?|
|2007||University of Sydney/King's College London||Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg/University of Zagreb||Pepperdine University School of Law/Monash University||University of Pretoria||George Washington University/University of Queensland||University of Hong Kong/Taylor's University||University of Sydney/University of Hong Kong||University of the Philippines/Chulalongkorn University||Universitas Indonesia/Victoria University||Queensland University of Technology||University of New South Wales||?|
|2006||Columbia University/Universidad Católica Andrés Bello||Queen Mary/Stetson University||Loyola Law School||University of Auckland/McGill University||NA||University of Queensland/University of Hong Kong||Universitas Indonesia/University of Malaya||Queensland University of Technology/University of Southampton||National University of Singapore||Université Libre de Bruxelles||?|
|2005||University of Queensland/International Islamic University of Malaysia||Stetson University/University of Vienna||West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences||George Washington University/National University of Singapore||University of Hong Kong/University of Western Australia||University of the Philippines/University of the Philippines||National University of Singapore/Universitas Indonesia||University of Queensland/University of Hong Kong||University of Birmingham||London School of Economics|
|2004||Ateneo Law School/National University of Singapore||Osgoode Hall Law School/Victoria University of Wellington||Tsinghua University/Loyola University Chicago||Leiden University/Georgetown University||National University of Singapore/University of Hong Kong||National University of Singapore/Universitas Indonesia||University of Technology Sydney/National University of Singapore||University College Dublin||University of Cambridge|
|2003||University of Western Australia/Mari State University||West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences/Humboldt University||University of Auckland/Georgetown University||University of the Philippines||University of Queensland/National Law School of India University||University of New South Wales|
|2002||University of the Witwatersrand/University of Western Australia||National University of Singapore/University of Queensland||Georgetown University/University of New South Wales||Ateneo Law School||University of Queensland/University of Hong Kong||Université de Fribourg|
|2001||National University of Singapore/Universidad Católica Andrés Bello||Monash University/University of Cologne||National University of Singapore/University of North Carolina||National University of Singapore||National University of Singapore/University of Technology Sydney||Université catholique de Louvain|
|2000||University of Melbourne/Universidad Católica Andrés Bello||University of Queensland/Loyola Law School||University of Paris XI/Hamline University||University of the Philippines||National University of Singapore||Université catholique de Louvain|
|1999||National Law School of India University/University of Pretoria||Deakin University/Tulane University||Vanderbilt University/University of Paris XI||Ateneo Law School||Université de Fribourg|
|1998||Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México/Australian National University||University of Münster/University of Queensland||University of North Carolina/University of Helsinki||Université Libre de Bruxelles|
|1997||Universidad Católica Andrés Bello/University of Calgary||University of Queensland/University of Cologne||University of Paris XI/University of North Carolina||University of Auvergne|
|1996||University of Sydney/National University of Singapore||Cornell University/Deakin University||University of Helsinki/University of Wyoming||Université du Québec à Montréal|
|1995||University of the Philippines/University of Western Australia||Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg/University of Nottingham||University of North Carolina/Leiden University||Graduate Institute of International Studies|
|1994||National University of Singapore/University of Melbourne||Columbia University/Laval University||Marshall University/University of Helsinki||Collège militaire royal du Canada|
|1993||University of Melbourne/University of Hawaii||Leiden University/George Washington University||Essex University|
|1992||Universite de Paris I/National University of Singapore||Barreau de Montréal|
|1991||University of Saskatchewan/University of Georgia||Barreau de Montréal|
|1990||University of Georgia/University of Toronto||Aix-Marseille III|
|1989||University of British Columbia/University of Melbourne||Université Libre de Bruxelles|
|1988||University of Melbourne/National University of Singapore|
|1987||Georgetown University/Katholieke Universiteit Leuven|
|1986||Boston College/National University of Singapore|
|1985||National University of Singapore/Southwestern University|
|1984||Dalhousie University/South Texas College of Law|
|1983||University of Kansas/National University of Singapore|
|1982||National University of Singapore/University of the Pacific|
|1981||Australian National University/University of the Pacific|
|1980||Georgetown University/National University of Singapore|
|1979||Northwestern University/University of Adelaide|
|1978||Brooklyn Law School/University of Toronto|
|1977||University of Kansas/University of Toronto|
|1976||University of Toronto/American University|
|1975||Cambridge University/Georgetown University|
|1974||University of Texas/Haile Selassie I University|
|1973||West Virginia University/Brunel University|
|1972||University of Miami/Haile Selassie I University|
|1971||University of Texas/University of California|
|1970||University of Miami/University of Kentucky|
University of Michigan
|1968||Duke University/University of Miami|
|1967||Vanderbilt University/Harvard Law School|
|1966||University of Texas/University of Wisconsin|
|1965||Columbia University/University of Virginia|
|1964||University of Texas/University of Pittsburgh|
|1963||Columbia University/University of North Carolina|
- Mock trial
- Mootness, which has a precise meaning in United States law that is quite different from United Kingdom usage.
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