Friday, August 5, 2011

SBKMC Comp ‘11

Some of the Mooters in the SBKMCC 2011
By Nou Vada 
I spent the whole week preparing for Round 5 of the Sir Buri Kidu Moot Court Competition. The nerves and the stress of preparing written submissions and then oral submissions had gotten to me by the middle of the week. But this is what I had signed up for, and I couldn’t complain and wish for everything to go away; I thought ex nudo pacto non oritur action; and that as such the stress is a part of the consideration in the agreement. I laughed at the thought. Such is true about all things in life, and the Sir Buri Kidu Moot Court Competition is no exception.

So what is the Sir Buri Kidu Moot Court Competition? It is a yearlong Competition where registered UPNG Law students from second year to fourth year go against each other in mock courtroom battles. Students form firms of two to four members and get them registered. 
This year, the competition was revived after a one year hiatus. Twenty firms registered as soon as notices for the inception of the Competition were put up; among the ranks was my own team, CR Legal.
The first round kicked off midway through first semester. All twenty teams were pitched one against another. The moot problem given for the first Round was one on defamation; it was an appeal case where the appellant, one Kepas Bigmaus, Member of Parliament was appealing against the decision of the court of first instance which found the respondent, Ruts National Nius Korporesen not liable for allegedly damaging Hon. Bigmaus’s good name and reputation pursuant to the Defamation Act 1962 over a news report and a corresponding editorial about allegations concerning the Appellant’s conduct at a Hotel. In Round 2, teams dealt with a case concerning property law where the plaintiff, one Jenny James was claiming that the defendant’s bank had unfairly settled the mortgaged house she had defaulted payments on. 
In the third round all teams were informed that eliminations would begin. For the third round, the case was in the area of Family law, where the appellant, an expatriate was appealing against the decision of the Court of first instance, in awarding the custody of his daughter to her Papua New Guinean mother, the respondent. Every team had, for every round, gone against another, either as plaintiff against defendant or as appellant against respondent. After the third round the bottom four teams were sent packing. 
The remaining 16 went to battle in Round 4, where the case at hand was a tricky one. It was about a highway robbery. The trickiness of it was in the course of action that was taken; the victim of the robbery took the Village Leader of the village next to the area where the robbery happened to Court, claiming that the village leader could’ve prevented such a robbery as the culprits were from that village. The case, which was an appeal, dealt with one of the most complex areas of Law in Papua New Guinea – the Underlying Law. The Underlying Law is a branch of the laws of Papua New Guinea that is to be developed chiefly by the Courts. Ideally and in a nutshell it is to use the customary law of the Peoples of Papua New Guinea and the common law of England, as well as case law from similar jurisdictions as Papua new Guinea to develop a dynamic body of laws that is uniquely Papua New Guinean; an integral part of what the Late Bernard Narakobi often referred to as the Melanesian Jurisprudence. Round 4’s case required the Moot teams who were appealing for the victim to invoke the custom of Papua New Guinea, successfully plead it and justify its use with the help of real PNG cases, and then convince the court to modify the Tort law of Negligence which is a product of the Common Law of England, to create a kind of composite law that descends from both PNG custom and English law, that would find the village leader liable for a civil wrong based on customary duty of care. We joked that it was a House of Lords meets Haus Tambaran scenario.
This week, only twelve teams remain. Behind the scenes a lot of meticulous planning is involved in keeping the competition running. The Competition is co-ordinated by the Moot Court Committee. Consisting of Academic staff from the School of Law and a dedicated team of students, the Committee oversees co-ordinating of teams and ensures teams get their problems and hand back in the written submissions on time. The Committee then makes sure that the Moot Judges, practicing lawyers who volunteer their time and skill to preside over each session in a Round arrive at the venue and get properly briefed. The committee organizes logistics and refreshments for each round and also co-ordinates the Judges Associates’, mostly law freshmen, who assist the Judge during sessions.
In Round 5, the case in question is a criminal matter and the remaining twelve teams will either represent the Appellants or the State, which is the respondent.
 The Moot Court has many benefits to those who’ve signed up for it. It builds confidence and gives an opportunity to practically engage the concepts, processes and rules that students study every day. As one of the Moot Judges once put it to me, “It’s not about winning or losing the case, it’s about how well and how efficiently you can assist the court in finding Justice because that’s what it’s really all about, finding Justice; the stress of the profession”.
I thought about this ‘stress of the profession’ in contrast to this stress I was going through preparing to represent the State in this imaginary case. A flurry of different feelings came; silliness, pride, happiness, satisfaction, fatigue, and then silliness again.