Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Moot Court at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center

Current HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student Nanfei Yan reports on moot court, one of the many extracurricular activities available to students at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. 

Hi All,

It’s winter break for the HNC, and many students are well into their escapades consisting of travel, internships, or just well-deserved rest. Back in the States myself, I’d like to introduce you all to a surprisingly popular extracurricular activity at the HNC: moot court.

According to Wikipedia, moot court is a law school activity “in which participants take part
IHL Moot Court Competition
in simulated court proceedings, which usually involves drafting briefs (or memorials) and participating in oral argument.” While not a law school, the HNC is consistently one of the few non-law school participants. This year, HNC students participated in the International Criminal Law Moot (ICC), the Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Moot (IHL), the Jessup International Law Moot, and the Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot.

Each moot focuses on a different aspect of law. As a center for international studies, HNC students have predominately participated in international law moot courts. At the beginning of the year, interested students interview for the various competitions, and teams consisting of both Chinese and international students are formed.

Moot court starts with a fictitious scenario. Teams are expected to analyze the legal issues
IHL Moot Court Team
presented from both applicant and defendant points of views. Analysis is done through research into treaties, commentaries, court cases, scholarly works, etc. The research is then organized into written memorials, which present a set of pleadings for both sides. Following the submission of the written memorials, students must then prepare for their oral presentation in front of a panel of judges. While the memorials test research and writing ability, the oral rounds require composure, acumen, and verbal eloquence.

Law aside, mooting is an activity that strengthens skills such as public speaking, academic writing, and teamwork. While the HNC may not be a law school, the mooters are just as dedicated in terms of understanding all the relevant legal discourse needed to succeed. The HNC is very proud of our IHL team, the team of oralists Gu Yinying and Brandon Yeh, assistant couch Zhang Wei, and researcher Li Yalin were awarded the First Prize at the Chinese Qualifying rounds.

Prior to IHL, Brandon had no idea what moot court even was, but “after about three to four

Jessup Moot Court Team researching
months of endlessly breathing international humanitarian law”, he came to understand and appreciate the importance of the ‘laws of wars’ and the customary international law used to protect civilians during times of armed conflict. Yinying chose IHL due to her interest in humanitarian law following a volunteer experience at refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. When asked about her experience, she noted that there “was a lot of work and stress in terms of preparation, especially when [she] first joined the team”, but the mooting experience itself “was challenging, intense, yet much more fun”.

Moot court presents the both the challenge and the opportunity of law, language, and culture. As I am preparing for China’s Jessup qualifying rounds next week, I highly recommend mooting to HNC students. As the pictures may suggest, it can be fun!