Trials of an Event Law-aison

The trials of a second-year law student at the University of Alberta.

The Moot

Nadya Ogloff - Sunday, March 27, 2011

We just finished our moots last week and it's really nice to be done so we can all focus on the final exams coming up next month. Pretty much every law student does the moot at one point or another, where we argue a fictional case before a panel of "judges" who are usually practicing lawyers who volunteer to come in and help us out. Some groups were actually assigned "real" judges for their moots. Even though it wasn't worth too much in terms of our grades, most people still put a great deal of effort in preparing for them.

I sat in on some of my classmate's moots and some of the judges asked really difficult questions, but students still answered really well. Some judges started asking questions around 30 seconds into the student's argument, and the questions continued until the student didn't have time to go over the rest of their argument. We submitted factums (written submissions of our arguments) beforehand so the opposing side and the judges both know what is going on, but there's always new issues that come up and that's where things get interesting. I'd have to say our group got an "easier" panel of judges who mostly asked questions that we anticipated. Even so, it's definitely a bit more intense when you are actually standing there in a formal moot courtroom setting with the judges staring at you from up high and your instructor grading you from the side.

Everybody in our legal research and writing class was assigned the same fictional case for appeal, and each group had two students for the appellant and two for the respondent. From what I've seen and heard, the appellants and respondents for each group got along just fine, so there wasn't much drama unless you really want to stir something up! That's not encouraged though, whether you are in school or in "real life". It was certainly fine for our group. We actually got together a few times to grill each other on questions prior to the moot, which was super helpful. Each group was supposed to have three judges, but one didn't show up for our's (our group was the only unlucky one!) and the judges were split in their decisions so we couldn't get a winner or loser.

Our class was assigned a fictional case where a man was convicted of sexual assault for having intercourse with his common law partner while she was in a permanent comatose state. There was videotape evidence that she gave advance consent to sexual intercourse that is anticipated to occur during her comatose state. They did this because she wanted a child, but the medications which slowed the progression of her neurological disease also prevented her from conceiving. She was previously advised by her doctor that she would be able to conceive a child once her medication is stopped when she enters her comatose state. The trial judge in this fictional case found that unconsciousness vitiates consent to sexual activity, even if consent was given to sexual activity anticipated to occur during unconsciousness.

Our fictional case was loosely based on this real-life case (R. v. J.A., 2010 ONCA 226; news article) currently awaiting judgment on appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada. The facts here were quite different than the one we mooted on, but the main question about advance consent was the same. My partner and I were assigned the appellant and argued why advance consent to sexual activity expected to occur during unconsciousness is legally permissible. After going over the arguments and doing all the research and writing, we found that you can form pretty strong arguments for both sides. If anything, we learned a lot about the crime of sexual assault. I also found out there are video webcasts of Supreme Court appeals, which is pretty neat. The webcast for R. v J.A. is really quite watchable, where you get to see the what the justices look like and people's different talking styles. (Side note: If you skip to the second half of this video, would those be considered "ironic" glasses? I never quite understood what that means. I'm referring to the one counsel was wearing.)

Overall, the moot was a good learning experience and it was fun to work with other people in the class. Now it's time to prepare for final exams, which will cover everything since September!



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