I. Before the Competition
The fundamental responsibility of a Moot Court judge is to be thorough with the facts of the case and spend some time thinking of the conceptual legal issues raised in the problem. Commonly referred to as a Bench Memorandum, the organizers of the Moot Court Competition will assist the judges by providing a summary of the case and the legal issues involved. The Competition will resonate with the participants to a much greater degree, however, if the judge is able to bring their own perspectives rather than take a formulaic approach. Being aware of the law surrounding the problem, will allow you as a judge to provide a more thorough analysis of the participant’s argument, and ultimately result in a better experience for both you and the Moot Court participants.
In addition to familiarizing yourself with the problem, judges should know the rules of the Moot Court Competition, which will be provided to you by the Moot Court administrators. Judges will sometimes be asked to attend a brief meeting a few days prior to the Competition, to discuss the case, rules, Competition schedule and answer any questions or concerns that a judge may have regarding their role and responsibilities.
II. During the Competition
Prior to the Moot Court Competition, teams produce written arguments (commonly referred to as Memorials), and during the actual Competition will present oral pleadings on points of law during a staged competition against an opposing team and in front of a panel of judges, who will question the counsel, score the teams and provide feedback to the mooters. Thus, the Price Media Law Moot Court Competitions allow participants to gain and develop practical legal skill sets that can have a positive impact on their future career.
As a Judge of the Oral Rounds you will play a critical role during the Moot Court Competition, and will have three main responsibilities:
- Score the rounds based upon the legal arguments expressed by the teams during their pleadings;
- Provide an explanation and feedback regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the team’s arguments; and
- After adjourning for a review and consultation with the other judges, provide the Moot Court administrators with the results of the oral round.
Ultimately as a judge you are trying to establish an environment for the participants that best represents a court room scenario, while simultaneously providing a rewarding educational experience.
III. Introduction to the Competition
During the oral rounds in a Price Moot Court Competition, two team members typically argue on behalf of the Applicant, while the other two team members argue on behalf of the Respondent. As a participating judge, you will sit on a panel with other judges, and preside over the court. The lead judge, who sits in the middle and is commonly referred to as the President, maintains the order of the proceedings, particularly directing the oralist when to begin or end their oral pleadings.
In a Moot Court Competition the bailiff, also commonly referred to as the clerk, sits to the side of the judges’ panel facing the oralist’s podium and mainly acts as the administrator for the oral rounds. All questions or concerns prior to the start of the oral round should be addressed to the bailiff. Before the match the bailiff will normally approach the team to collect the correct spelling of the names of the oralists and the time-split amongst the speakers. During the oral round the bailiff will announce the entry of the judges into the courtroom (at which time everyone present should rise); announce the case being presented before the court; and when the Sur-rebuttal is concluded, the bailiff will announce that the court is adjourned. During the oral pleadings, the bailiff will also inform the oralist of their time by displaying a card when there is fifteen, ten, five, three, and one minute remaining. When time has expired, the bailiff will hold a card that says ‘STOP.’ As per the rules of the Competition, it is up to the sole discretion of the judges to grant the participant extra time.
IV. Oral Arguments
After the judges are introduced by the bailiff and have taken their seats, the president will invite the first Applicant to present their oral pleadings to the court. As stated in the Rules of the Competition, the order of the pleadings in each oral round at all levels of the Competition is: Applicant 1 (minimum 15 and maximum 25 minutes), then Applicant 2 (minimum 15 and maximum 25 minutes), then Respondent 1 (minimum 15 and maximum 25 minutes), then Respondent 2 (minimum 15 and maximum 25 minutes) then rebuttal (Applicant 1 or 2, maximum 5 minutes), and finally Sur-rebuttal (Respondent 1 or 2, maximum 5 minutes). Only two (2) team members shall present the arguments during an oral round, and the maximum time allotted for a team’s oral pleadings, including answering questions from the Moot Court judges and rebuttals may not exceed forty five (45) minutes per team. When assessing the participant’s oral arguments, judges should base their criteria on the participant’s Knowledge and Use of Facts, Knowledge of the Law, Structure of Argument, Quality of Argument, and Overall Presentation skills (Style, Articulation, Time Management). How the participant analyzes the facts presented in the case, cites legal authorities, rebuts the opponent’s arguments, and structures and delivers rational, justifiable legal arguments are all critical criteria to consider when assessing the overall team’s performance. Additionally, judges should take into consideration how an oralist manages time as well as the style and composure of the oralist. The ability to present and adequately address critical issues within the allotted time constraints separates a skilled mooter from a novice. Judges should also consider how participants demonstrate clarity of speech, a high level of confidence, and proper court room etiquette.
V. Oral Rounds Checklist
- Did the oralist introduce him/herself?
- Did the first oralist introduce co-Agents and ask the court if they wanted a summary of the facts of the case?
- Did the first oralist indicate the amount of time allocated for the oral pleadings and which submissions will be respectively addressed by each team member?
- Did the oralist provide a structured map outlining the oral pleadings?
- Did the oralist deliver a persuasive and well structured argument grounded in law?
- Did the oralist demonstrate a strong understanding of the facts presented in the case and subsequently utilize them to advance their argument?
- Did the oralist compose intellectual responses to the judges’ inquires?
- Did the oralist directly answer questions posed from the judges’ panel?
- Did the oralist properly cite sources and legal authorities?
- Did the oralist provide an adequate conclusion that added value to their overall oral pleadings?
- Did the oralist from the Applicant side limit the rebuttal to the scope of the Respondent’s oral pleadings?
- Did the oralist from the Respondent side limit the Sur-rebuttal to the scope of the Applicant’s rebuttal?
- Did the oralist speak slowly, confidently and clearly?
- Was the oralist respectful to both the judges and opponents, as well as present him/herself in a professional manner?
- Did the oralist manage and make effective use of their time?
In addition to the above responsibilities, judges should also be aware of any inappropriate behavior, particularly misconduct at the counsel table, during the oral rounds. The counsel normally consists of the two current oralists presenting the same position on behalf of a team, and the third team member who argues the opposite position may also assist and serve of counsel. The coach is not permitted to sit at the counsel table, and no more than three team members can be of counsel. Verbal or written communication between the oralist in progress of presenting a team’s submissions and the respective team’s counsel table is prohibited. Speaking is prohibited at the counsel table, and thus team members may only communicate in writing. Finally, team participants may not have at the counsel table or podium electronic devices, including laptop computers, mobile phones, PDAs, or digital watches.
VI. Style of Judging
Judges are expected to question oralists to seek clarification and assess their knowledge of the law. There is no definitive answer to the manner in which a judge should question the Moot Court participants, but judges should adopt styles that they are most comfortable with. Of course, it is advisable to avoid the extremes and be neither very passive nor very aggressive. In essence, the role of the judge is to play an active part and test the response of the participants on facets of the problem that you consider to be important.
The experience is far more rewarding when the judge engages the participants with questions in a manner that provides an accurate simulation of a court room setting. Thus, judges are allowed to and at times encouraged to interrupt the participant in order to seek clarification of their legal argument. Some judges prefer to ask questions that forces the participant to respond with a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ while other judges prefer to ask questions that require the participant to generate a more comprehensive response. These questions should not be meant to overtly challenge the participant’s argument, but instead should be forwarded as a means to assess the participant’s caliber and the quality and justification for their argument. Either way judges should be aware of the time limitations of oralists, and avoid questioning or engaging in lengthy dialogue which would not allow the oralist to finish presenting their submissions. We kindly ask that judges establish a balance and accepted medium that does not attempt to overburden nor intimidate the participants, and is equally applied across all participating teams.
VII. Diversity of Participants
Participants come from diverse backgrounds in terms of language, religion and culture. Judges must take this diversity into account while engaging with the participants during oral arguments. Language very often is a challenge in a Competition, and comfort levels will differ amongst participants. The emphasis at all times should be to test the understanding of the legal issues involved. While articulation is undoubtedly critical to such an exercise, it would be appreciated if judges made sincere attempts at putting the participants at ease and drawing out their understanding of the case.
VIII. Scoring and Marking Participants
At the end of the oral round, the judges will adjourn to consider the facts submitted by the teams. A scoring sheet will be provided for the oral arguments to reduce the disparity arising out of subjective marking and ensure consistency throughout the Competition. Each oralist can be awarded a maximum of one hundred (100) points per oral pleading based on the following criteria:
- Correct legal analysis and its application to facts;
- Relevant treaties, relevant customs, relevant law, regional judgments, legal scholars;
- Recognition of problems, clarity and logic of argument;
- Complete and correct recognition and weighting of problems;
- Correct primary and alternative submissions;
- Evidence of original thought;
- Overall presentation;
- Ability to communicate with judges, persuasiveness and fluency.
The score sheet requests that the judges select a number between 10-20 based upon whether the participant’s performance was Poor (10), Average (11-14), Good (15-17), or Excellent (18-20). For instance, if a performance was Excellent, the judge should select a score between 18-20; whereas if a performance was only Average, then a score between 11-14 should be selected. A sample score sheet for grading oralists during the oral round can be found at the bottom of this guide. This adopted method to determine the winners of each match ensures that the negative effects of subjective marking are kept to a minimum. Additionally, the Moot Court administrators will assist the judges during the Competition in tallying the scores.
IX. Deliberation and Feedback
After the Sur-rebuttal and the conclusion of the oral pleadings, judges will deliberate. While the judges can consult about providing feedback to participants, judges are kindly asked not to consult with each other while marking the teams and filling out the score sheets.
Following the deliberation, judges will return their score sheets directly to the bailiff or the Moot Court administrator, and then return to the bench to provide feedback and comments to the two competing teams regarding their performance. Judges should NOT announce the scores or the winner of the round; inquire about the identity of the participating team; or make apparent through their comments which team has won the match.
It is common when addressing the participants for the judge to begin by introducing him/herself and providing a brief history and background on his/her professional career and qualifications. The judge should reference the merits of the teams, as well as provide comments regarding their performance. Some judges prefer to give general comments, while other judges prefer to provide more specific and tailored advice to the mooters. If a judge expresses comments concerning weaknesses in a team’s performance, it is advisable to accompany such comments with suggestions about the best method to overcome such weaknesses. Judges should be sensitive, however, to the fact that teams have made numerous sacrifices in their preparation and participation for the Moot Court Competition. Overall these comments are warmly received by participants because they provide critical recommendations for upcoming rounds, future Moot Court Competitions, as well as for their future careers in law.
After all the preliminary rounds have concluded, the Moot Court administrators will meet with the judges to assist in tallying up the scores. The results of the preliminary rounds and the two teams that will be subsequently competing in the Finals are then announced at the end of the day. A coin toss is then held between the finalists, and the winning team has the opportunity to choose whether they will be competing as Applicants or Respondents in the final round of the Competition.
This guide was intended to serve as a resource and provide insight and information regarding the roles and responsibilities of a Moot Court judge during the Moot Court Competition. If you know anyone who would be both interested and qualified to judge a Moot Court Competition, we would appreciate if you would inform your friends and colleagues of this opportunity.
Once again, we are excited and honored to have you participate as a judge in our Moot Court and hope you are looking forward to and will enjoy this experience. If you have any questions about the rules of the Competition or your specific role and responsibility as a Moot Court judge please feel free to contact the administrators of the Moot Court Competition.