I Before the Competition

As a judge of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition, you are encouraged to familiarise yourself with the facts laid out in the Competition Case and spend some time thinking about 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 by referring solely to the Bench Memorandum. 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 participants.

In addition to being aware of the facts of the Competition Case, judges should be broadly familiar with the rules of the Moot Court Competition, which will also be provided to you by the Moot Court administrators. Judges are asked to attend a brief meeting on the morning of 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 Competition will present oral pleadings based on the written memorials. Note that they can go beyond scope of their memorials.

This will take place through a simulation of a courtroom scenario:

  • with three judges sitting as a panel/judges bench;
  • a team presenting arguments for the applicant;
  • a team presenting arguments for the respondent;
  • a clerk/bailiff to keep time.

Judges are encouraged to pose questions to counsel, score counsel based on the Oral Rounds Scoresheet and provide constructive feedback to the mooters. Thus, the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition allows participants to gain and develop practical legal skill sets such as oral advocacy and written legal argument that can have positive impacts on their future career.

As a judge of the Oral Rounds you will have three main responsibilities:

  1. Score each oralist based on the legal arguments expressed by them during their pleadings and fill out the scoresheet in full;
  2. Adjourn for a review and consult with the other judges in order to provide provide constructive feedback regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the team’s arguments and oral presentations; and
  3. Make sure to provide the Moot Court administrators with the Oral Round Scoresheet in hand after the oral round is finished.

Ultimately as a judge the goal is to create an environment for the participants that best represents a court room scenario, while simultaneously providing a rewarding educational experience. In order to ensure that every person associated with the competition is treated with respect, it is important for judges to peruse the Fact Sheet on Implicit Bias.

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 two other judges. 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. This is largely ceremonial as all judges’ scores carry the same weight.

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 manages the administration for that round. All questions or concerns prior to the start or during 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 note the time that each speaker will take in presenting their oral arguments as per the Rules. 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 periodically inform the oralist (and judges) of their time by displaying a card when there are fifteen, ten, five, three, and one minute remaining. When time has expired, the bailiff will hold up card that says ‘TIME UP.’ As per the rules of the Competition, it is up to the sole discretion of the judges to grant the participant extra time. Judges are encouraged to stick to the allocated time and at the most, if pressed, allow one minute of extra time per team.

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);
  • Respondent 1 (minimum 15 and maximum 25 minutes) then Respondent 2 (minimum 15 and maximum 25 minutes);
  • Rebuttal (Applicant 1 or 2, maximum 5 minutes);
  • 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 analyses 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. Finally, judges must consider the overall persuasiveness of the argument and whether it passes muster in law.

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 road 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 utilise them to advance their argument?
  • Did the oralist compose succinct, coherent and direct responses to the judges’ questions?
  • Did the oralist properly cite sources and legal authorities?
  • Did the oralist demonstrate the ability to apply the law to the facts of the competition case?
  • 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? (Remember that no new arguments are meant to be introduced during the rebuttal)
  • Did the oralist from the Respondent side limit the Sur-rebuttal to the scope of the Applicant’s rebuttal? (Remember that no new arguments are meant to be introduced during the sur-rebuttal)
  • Did the oralist communicate effectively (for eg., speak slowly, confidently and clearly)?
  • Was the oralist respectful to both the judges and opponents, as well as present themselves in a professional manner?
  • Did the oralist manage and make effective use of their time?

In addition to the above responsibilities, judges must note that verbal or written communication between the oralist in progress of presenting a team’s submissions and the respective team’s counsel table is strictly prohibited. Speaking is prohibited at the counsel table, and thus team members may only communicate in writing. 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 off-counsel. Finally, team participants may not have at the counsel table or podium electronic devices, including laptop computers, mobile phones, PDAs, or digital watches. Teams are instructed to raise rule violations of this nature and others before judges deliberate on the result and the scores. Judges must be aware of this possibility and take this into consideration whilst deliberating. In the event of a dispute that judges are unable to resolve, please request to see the Moot Administrators at the earliest, who will be the final arbiters and provide guidance.

VI Style of Judging

Judges are expected to question and challenge oralists to seek clarification and assess their knowledge of the law. Judges are encouraged to adopt styles that they are most comfortable with. It is important to remember at this stage that the role of the judge in a Moot Court Competition is one that is meant to encourage rather than discourage – it is thus 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 legal dexterity of the participants on facets of the problem that you consider to be important.

The experience for teams is far more rewarding when a judge engages oralists with questions in a manner that provides an accurate simulation of a court room setting. Thus, judges are allowed to and encouraged to interrupt the participant in order to seek clarification of their legal argument. Some judges prefer to ask questions that require 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 calibre and the quality and justification for their argument. Either way judges should be aware of the time limitations of oralists, and avoid engaging in lengthy dialogue which would not allow the oralist to resume the presentation of their submissions. We kindly ask that judges establish a balance and accepted medium that does not attempt to overburden nor intimidate participants, and is equally applied across all participating teams.

VII Other Responsibilities

Judges must ensure that they maintain teams’ anonymity by not enquiring which university they are from prior to judging their round. This is to ensure that there is no institutional bias that creeps into judging. That said, however, 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 in English will differ amongst participants. Native speakers should have the advantage over non native speakers. The emphasis at all times should be to test the understanding of the legal issues involved not level of english. 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. The Price Media Law Moot Court Competition has a strong policy against discrimination of any kind. Judges are encouraged to peruse the Fact Sheet on Implicit Bias to ensure that they are acting fairly at all times. In addition, judges must ensure that they are not seen to be favouring one team over another in any capacity, whether during or outside of the specific round as this would compromise the fairness of the competition. Judges are privy to confidential information and must not exchange such information (such as the Bench Memorandum) with participating teams, not even after the Competition ends. Although an important element of the Price Moot is creating a network of interested and aspiring scholars and practitioners, it is also key to the running of the competition that judges maintain a degree of impartiality and integrity.

VIII Scoring and Marking Participants

At the end of the oral round, the judges will adjourn to consider the arguments presented by the teams. An Oral Round Score Sheet will be provided to every judge to reduce the disparity arising out of subjective marking and ensure consistency throughout the Competition. Each judge should fulfill the Oral ROund Score Sheet separately and independently. Each oralist may be awarded minimum of fifty (50) points  and  maximum of one hundred (100) points in their oral argument based on the following criteria:

  • Correct legal analysis and its application to facts;
  • Relevant citations of treaties, custom, legislation, case law (regional and international), legal scholars and jurists;
  • Recognition of problems, clarity and logic of argument;
  • Complete and correct recognition and weighting of issues arising from the case;
  • 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 each category. 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 method to determine the winners of each match ensures that the range used by different judges is largely the same, and subjective marking is kept to a minimum. Judges are also encouraged to write down constructive feedback that they may have in relation to each oralist, as the participants receive copies of the scoresheets to ensure transparency across the Moot Court Competition. In the event of a discrepancy in the scoresheet, judges may be contacted to clarify their marking by the Moot Administrators.

IX Deliberation and Feedback

After the conclusion of oral argument, teams will leave the room and judges will deliberate on the result of the round. While the judges may consult one another regarding feedback to participants, judges are kindly asked not to consult with each other while marking the teams and filling out the score sheets. This is to ensure that there are three independent assessments of the participants’ oral presentations.

Following the deliberation, judges will return their score sheets directly to Moot Court administrators or person appointed by Moot Court administrators for collection of scoresheets, and only then provide feedback and comments to the two competing teams regarding their performance. This is to ensure that the preliminary rounds run on time. Judges should not announce the scores or the winner of the round (especially since judges also are not aware who the winner of the match is); enquire about the identity of the participating team; or make apparent through their comments which team has won the match.

When addressing the participants and providing feedback regarding the round, judges may begin by introducing themselves and providing a brief overview of their professional career. Judges may then provide comments regarding the teams’ performance. Some judges prefer to give general comments, while other judges prefer to provide more specific and tailored advice to each speaker. As the aim is to build an encouraging atmosphere, 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.

X Conclusions

This guide is intended to serve as a resource and provide insight and information regarding the roles and responsibilities of a Moot Court judge during the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition. If you know anyone who would be both interested and qualified to judge a Moot Court Competition, please share this form with them, so that we can extend an invitation to them to join us at the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition.

Once again, we are excited and honoured to have you participate as a judge in our Moot Court and hope you are looking forward to this experience. If you have any other questions about the rules of the Competition or your specific role and responsibility as a Moot Court judge at any time during or prior to the Competition, please feel free to contact the administrators of the Moot Court Competition at pricemootoxford@law.ox.ac.uk.

Relevant documents:

 

***Last revised February 2019