Moot Court takes Centre Stage
On stage in the Centre for the Arts theatre, court was in session and experiential learning was on display for St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) Grade 12 law students participating in the 19th annual Moot Court Competition.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this competition was held virtually in 2020 and 2021,” says Andrew Rossi, history and law teacher at SMCS. “This year, we were able to get back to the traditional model, live in-person. This was very welcome as it provides the students the best experience possible.”
The competition was established in 2003 by David Lee ’94, SMCS vice principal, with the guidance and expertise of the late Honourable Justice Bryan Shaughnessy ’68, OSM.
“First, it provides students with an opportunity to apply what they are learning in a practical way. We can teach students about the charter, but to have them craft their own arguments, allows them to interact with the material in a more meaningful way,” adds Rossi. “Second, it provides students with an opportunity for experiential learning. They interact with judges during this competition, learn from them, and ask questions of them. This interaction is an important addition to our classroom curriculum. And finally, the competition is important because it commemorates the legacy of Order of St. Michael member, Mr. Justice Bryan Shaughnessy.”
Each year, justices from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice are invited to hear the arguments of appellant and respondent teams and determine the top team with the best overall appeal as well as the ‘Top Advocate’. This year’s judges included the Honourable Justice Myrna Lack and the Honourable Justice Hugh O’Connell.
“The case chosen this year was R. v. Brown. This case involved an individual who was charged with a criminal offence and given bail conditions,” says Rossi. “The individual then breached one of those bail conditions and made an argument that the condition violated his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Appellants, Maxwell Roy and Nathaniel Vokes, were tasked with arguing that the individual’s rights had not been violated, while respondents, Alexander Frino-Fernandez and Jack Morris had to present a case that showed a violation had occurred.
“One value that the competition brought was critical thinking and the way you had to respond to tough questions from the judges,” says Vokes.
This year there were 10 teams in the initial round with four who moved onto the semi-finals. The top two teams after the semi-final round had the opportunity to argue in front of a pair of justices on May 10, 2022
“The main lesson I gained from this was that language and arguing is an art as opposed to a science, and the evaluation of our arguments could not be done by a formula, as our arguments are only as strong as they are appreciated,” says Frino-Fernandez.
Prior to the final competition, the mooting process began in class where every Grade 12 law student had the chance to participate in groups of two as either an appellant or respondent. Students were required to extensively research the case, precedent cases, and the law when writing their factums, then had to provide oral arguments against another team.
“I think the students did a wonderful job, and the judges echoed that,” says Rossi. “All four participants improved with each successive round, listened to feedback, and implemented positive changes.”
Following the competition, Justice Lack and Justice O’Connell recessed to their chambers to deliberate the students’ arguments.
“There was a 20-minute discussion, which shows just how close all the students were,” says Rossi. “In the end, the top team was chosen based on how convincing their arguments were. The top advocate was chosen based on their ability to detail their arguments in an organized fashion, essentially providing a roadmap, and because of their strength in answering questions from the bench.”
Roy and Vokes were selected as the top team with the best overall appeal, with Roy being named Top Advocate. Roy will have his name added to the Shaughnessy Cup and will be awarded the St. Thomas More Legal Advocacy and Shaughnessy Family Award at his graduation in June.
“Being named Top Advocate is an honour,” says Roy. “Before the competition, I saw the trophy and the names on it had been past presidents of St. Mike’s and very influential students. As St. Mike’s students, we work very hard to excel in our classes, this award of Top Advocate makes me thankful for the opportunities St. Mike’s gives us as students.”
Watch the 19th annual Moot Court Competition: