It’s a moot point

This term, we first year students are being introduced to another fun, new aspect of law school: mooting.

I’ve been describing a moot to my friends as a “fake court case,” though that’s not quite accurate. A moot is a fake court appeal case, the hypothetical review of a case that has already been decided.

The moot is worth 25% of the grade in our criminal law class. The actual grade is for the factum – the written arguments that each side would submit to the court – and then there is a mandatory but non-graded oral presentation to real legal practitioners. The UBC moot has a complicated set of rules [PDF], and we’ve been given some guidelines on how to approach it.

My class’ case is based on the real-life case of R v Steele [2007]. In both cases, would-be robbers are surprised to find people at home during a break and enter. The accused threaten “we have a gun,” which subdues the home’s occupants until the robbers can flee. They’re caught a few minutes later. While they had a gun in their getaway car, they did not actually bring it into the house with them.

The question focuses on whether or not the accused were “using” the gun during the break and enter. If the courts find that they did, they are guilty of a second crime. Neither the statute nor the common law (that we’re allowed to use) answer the question, so it’s up to us to argue it out.  In real life, the Supreme Court of Canada found that the accused did “use” the weapon even though it was not on their person during the break and enter, but in the moot assignment, that Court found the opposite.

It’s a pretty enjoyable (and educational) task, but if this was a real case, we’d look through past court cases to help find guidance or authorities for our arguments. Here, we’re not allowed to do that. So while there are some fun educational pieces to the moot, this one seems to hold to the “we only trust you with baby steps” approach to first year law school. As before, I still believe we can set better educational tasks that involve more realistic practice. But of course, given the current approach, that is a potentially unrealistic discussion … I’m sure there’s a term for that

A change from previous years, the moot factums are due early this term. My team (we’re the Crown) has their written assignment due this Tuesday, Jan 18. I’m thankfully done most of my submission, but I know a lot of my other law peers will be hitting the books pretty seriously this weekend.

2 thoughts on “It’s a moot point

  1. Prospective JD Candidate

    I agree that moots should involve usage of past cases. But I suppose it’s a method of teaching argumentative methods without creating a reliance on past rulings to serve as the focal argument.

    You make mooting sound like a lot of fun! Oh, I really hope I gain admission into legal studies!


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