Moot court

Moot court
A law school's courtroom

A moot court is an extracurricular activity at many law schools in which participants take part in simulated court proceedings, usually to include drafting briefs (or memorials) and participating in oral argument. The term derives from Anglo Saxon times, when a moot (gmot or emot) was a gathering of prominent men in a locality to discuss matters of local importance. The modern activity differs from a "mock trial", as moot court usually refers to a simulated appellate court or arbitral case, while a "mock trial" usually refers to a simulated jury trial or bench trial. Moot court does not involve actual testimony by witnesses or the presentation of evidence, but is focused solely on the application of the law to a common set of evidentiary assumptions to which the competitors must be introduced. In the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries, the phrase "a moot court" may be shortened to simply "a moot" and the activity may be called "mooting".

Moot court is one of the key extracurricular activities in law school. Students typically spend a semester researching and writing the memorials, as well as practising their oral arguments. Whereas domestic moot court competitions tend to focus on municipal law, regional and international moot competitions tend to focus on subjects such as public international law, international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international commercial arbitration.


International moot competitions

List of notable competitions

Competition Established Subject matter Annual participation Location of finals National or regional rounds Most wins
Jessup[1] 1960 Public international law 500–600 teams Washington D.C. Yes National University of Singapore (4)
University of Texas (4)
Willem C. Vis Moot[2] 1993 International commercial arbitration 200–250 teams Vienna No Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg (2)
University of Queensland (2)
Vis East[3] 2003 International commercial arbitration 70–90 teams Hong Kong No Loyola Law School (2)
Sir Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot 1992 Space law 50–60 teams Varies Yes
Jean-Pictet[4] 1989 International humanitarian law 48–56 teams Varies, generally in the Northern hemisphere No Université Libre de Bruxelles (3)
Red Cross (Asia-Pacific) IHL Moot 2002 International humanitarian law 20–30 teams Hong Kong Yes
Asia Cup[5] 1999 Public international law 20–30 teams Tokyo Yes University of the Philippines (4)
African Human Rights Moot Court Competition 1992 Human rights in Africa 80 teams[6] Varies within Africa No University of Pretoria (5)
University of Cocody (5)
Maritime Moot[7] 2000 International maritime law 15–20 teams No
IP Intellectual property law Oxford No
Price Media Law Moot Court[8] 2008 International media law 20–25 teams Oxford Yes
D.M. Harish 2000 Public international law 25–30 teams Mumbai No
ELSA World Trade Organisation 2002 World Trade Organisation Yes
Frankfurt Investment Arbitration Moot Court[9] 2007 International investment arbitration 20–30 teams Frankfurt No
ELMC 1988 European law 80–100 teams Luxembourg Yes
World Human Rights Moot Court Competition 2009 International human rights law Pretoria No
Thomas Tang 1993 70–80 teams Varies Yes
International Moot Competition on Maritime Arbitration 2010 Maritime law Odessa No
Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition[10] 1975 Domestic/International law 100–125 teams Varies Yes
LawAsia 2006 International commercial arbitration 15–25 teams Varies Yes
International Law Youth for Peace 2006 International humanitarian law 30 teams Minsk
ICC Trial Competition 2007 International criminal law 12–19 teams The Hague Yes

List of champions

Year Jessup[11] Vis[12] Vis East Space DMH[13] IHL Asia-Pacific[14] Asia Cup[15] AHRM Maritime[16] IP Price Jean Pictet[17] International Law YFP
2011 University of Sydney University of Ottawa Bond University Gujarat National Law University Victoria University of Wellington Singapore Management University University of Pretoria
Université de Cocody
Universidade Eduardo Mondlane
London School of Economics[18] University of Belgrade Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya Singapore Management University–National University of Singapore
2010 Australian National University King's College London Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg George Washington University National Law University, Delhi University of Hong Kong Singapore Management University Université de Cocody
University of Namibia
Rhodes University
National University of Singapore Boston University Singapore Management University Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya
2009 Universidad de los Andes Victoria University of Wellington Loyola Law School National Law School of India University Nalsar University of Law Universitas Indonesia University of the Philippines University of Ghana
Université de Dschang
Universidade Eduardo Mondlane
University of Queensland Queensland University of Technology Cardozo School of Law Université de Caen
2008 Case Western Reserve University Carlos III University of Madrid Griffith University University of New South Wales Washington University School of Law National University of Singapore Ateneo de Manila University University of Pretoria
University of Ghana
Eduardo Mondlane University
University of Queensland National University of Singapore Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
2007 University of Sydney Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg Pepperdine University School of Law George Washington University University of Cambridge University of Sydney University of the Philippines University of the Free State
Université Libre de Kinshasa
Universitas Indonesia Queensland University of Technology University of New South Wales
2006 Columbia University Loyola Law School University of Auckland National Law School of India University University of Queensland Universitas Indonesia Gaston Berger University
University of the Witwatersrand
Queensland University of Technology National University of Singapore Université Libre de Bruxelles
2005 University of Queensland Stetson University West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences George Washington University National Law School of India University National University of Singapore University of Cocody
University of Cape Town
London School of Economics
2004 Ateneo de Manila University Osgoode Hall Law School Tsinghua University University of Leiden National University of Singapore National University of Singapore Université Abomey Calavi
University of Pretoria
University of Cambridge
2003 University of Western Australia West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences University of Auckland University of the Philippines University of Cocody
University of Natal
University of New South Wales
2002 University of the Witwatersrand National University of Singapore Georgetown University Ateneo de Manila University University of Nairobi
Universite de la Reunion
Université de Fribourg
2001 National University of Singapore National University of Singapore National University of Singapore Université Tunis III
Makerere University
National University of Singapore Université catholique de Louvain
2000 University of Melbourne University of Paris XI Université Catholique d’Afrique Centrale
University of Ghana
National University of Singapore Université catholique de Louvain (introduction of English-speaking round)
1999 National Law School of India University Deakin University Vanderbilt University Université de Cocody
University of Nairobi
Université de Fribourg
1998 Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México University of North Carolina Universidade Eduardo Mondlane
University of Botswana
Université Libre de Bruxelles
1997 Universidad Católica Andrés Bello University of Paris XI University of the Witwatersrand
Makerere University
University of Auvergne
1996 University of Sydney Cornell University University of Helsinki University of Pretoria
University of Nairobi
Université Hassan II, Casablanca
Université du Québec à Montréal
1995 University of the Philippines Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg University of North Carolina Rand Afrikaans University
Makerere University
Graduate Institute of International Studies
1994 National University of Singapore Columbia University John Marshall University University of Natal Collège militaire royal du Canada
1993 University of Melbourne Leiden University University of Witwatersrand Essex University
1992 Universite de Paris I George Washington University University of Pretoria Barreau de Montréal
1991 University of Saskatchewan Barreau de Montréal
1990 University of Georgia Aix-Marseille III
1989 University of British Columbia Université Libre de Bruxelles
1988 University of Melbourne
1987 Georgetown University
1986 Boston College
1985 National University of Singapore
1984 Dalhousie University
1983 University of Kansas
1982 National University of Singapore
1981 Australian National University
1980 Georgetown University
1979 Northwestern University
1978 Brooklyn Law School
1977 University of Kansas
1976 University of Toronto
1975 Cambridge University
1974 University of Texas
1973 West Virginia University
1972 University of Miami
1971 University of Texas
1970 University of Miami
1969 Rutgers University
University of Michigan
1968 Duke University
1967 Vanderbilt University
1966 University of Texas
1965 Columbia University
1964 University of Texas
1963 Columbia University

Domestic moot competitions

List of notable competitions



Law schools structure their moot court programs differently. Some moot court organizations accept a small group of people for membership, and those members each participate in a number of national or regional moot court competitions. Other schools accept a larger number of members, and each member is matched with one competition. A few schools conduct moot court entirely intramurally. Moot court competitions are typically sponsored by organizations with interest in one particular area of law, and the moot court problems address an issue in that field. Competitions are often judged by legal practitioners with expertise in the particular area of law, or sometimes by sitting judges.

The basic structure of a moot court competition roughly parallels what would happen in actual appellate practice. Participants will typically receive a problem ahead of time, which includes the facts of the underlying case, and often an opinion from a lower court that is being challenged in the problem. Students must then research and prepare for that case as if they were lawyers or advocates for one or sometimes both of the parties. Depending on the competition, participants will be required to submit written briefs, participate in oral argument, or both. The case or problem is often one of current interest, sometimes mimicking an actual case, and sometimes fabricated to address difficult legal issues.

A number of moot court competitions focus on specific areas of law. For example, the First Amendment Center annually holds a National First Amendment Moot Court Competition, in which the judges have included numerous United States Circuit Court Judges.[19]

The American Collegiate Moot Court Association

Every year undergraduates across the world participate in moot courts (simulating argument before the Supreme Court). In the United States, undergraduates experience moot court in a variety of disciplines and a variety of settings. The most common are in-class exercises that are assigned by professors. Other schools actually form competitive teams. These teams often compete in intramural events, some in statewide competitions, or they can enter tournaments sponsored by the American Collegiate Moot Court Association – the only national organization dedicated to intercollegiate moot court. The ACMA was founded by Dr. Charles Knerr, a political science professor at the University of Texas, Arlington, and by Texas attorney Andrew Sommerman. Since 2001, ACMA has hosted the Championship Tournament to crown the national champion of intercollegiate moot court. The first several national championship tournaments were hosted successfully by the Honors College at UT-Arlington. The event was open to all comers, and even its first tournament drew teams from across the country even though the field was just over 20 teams. In the next several years, the event continued to grow, typically to between 70-80 teams, and attracted schools from across the United States.

In 2006, ACMA made two decisions that appear to have served as a catalyst to increase substantially the growth of intercollegiate moot court. First, the Executive Committee agreed to move the Championship Tournament to different sites across the country. Since 2007, the event has been hosted by the law schools at Regent University (Virginia Beach, VA), Drake University (Des Moines, IA), Chapman University (Orange, CA), and Florida International University (Miami, FL). The 2010-2011 Championship Tournament was hosted by the law school at Tulane University (New Orleans, LA).[20]

Second, the Executive Committee opted to sponsor a series of national qualifying tournaments in venues across the nation. The process of requiring teams to qualify for the championship tournament certainly seems to have spurred interest in moot court nation-wide. Not only has the organization grown in size, it now truly hosts a national field.

While undergraduate moot court is still a relatively new forensics activity, when compared with speech and debate and intercollegiate mock trial, by the 2009-2010 season, there were 248 teams who competed at the regional tournaments hosted by California State University, Long Beach, Fitchburg State University (MA), Hamline University (MN), Regent School of Law (VA), Texas Tech School of Law, the University of Tampa (FL), the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law, and The College of Wooster (OH). The regional tournaments vary by size, but there is a standardized process for awarding bids to nationals. Currently, teams that finish in the top 25 percent of each regional earn an automatic bid to the national tournament. The remainder of the 64 team field is awarded to at-large teams with the best records at the qualifying events. No school can earn more than eight bids to the national field. ACMA tournaments currently have three preliminary rounds and a series of elimination rounds are very much like the “sudden death”/”one-and-done” nature of the NCAA basketball tournament. The qualifying tournaments are held during the fall semester, most are in November, and the championship tournament is in mid-January. ACMA is governed by an Executive Committee of educators and attorneys from member schools. It has an elected President who is empowered to implement decisions made by the Executive Committee between called business meetings.

There are other organizations that sponsor intercollegiate moot court tournaments, and will, for instance, host statewide championships, e.g., the Texas Undergraduate Moot Court Association (TUMCA). Smaller invitational tournaments exist which enable teams to gain additional experience in moot court. In California, for instance, students compete in the spring in the California Classic. This event has been held at Mt. St. Mary’s College and Fresno State University. There is also fall scrimmage in Texas that has drawn a number of teams from around the nation. Additionally, in 2008, there was a four-school event in the District of Columbia at the Prettyman Judicial Complex. These invitational tournaments are not ACMA-sanctioned events.

The Case

Undergraduate moot court cases pose two certified questions. The case (known as the “record”) includes an appellate majority opinion and a dissent. The “library” is a closed one. Typically, the record includes twenty opinions that students can rely upon for their arguments. Rules allow them to refer to cases cited in the cases directly included in the record. However, they can only rely on these cases within cases to the degree that they were used by the authorities directly in the record. All teams competing in ACMA-sponsored events will argue the same case. ACMA students have engaged in oral argument on issues such as same-sex marriage, national health care, privacy under the 4th Amendment, life terms for minors who are not guilty of murder or attempted murder, freedom of religion, a federal ban on firearms on school grounds, and warrantless domestic wiretapping of suspected terrorists. Cases are written by the ACMA. The case problem is released on the ACMA website by May 1 of each year.

The Teams

Undergraduate moot court teams consist of two oral advocates. The advocates are responsible for knowing both issues – but typically are only asked about one certified question. Each team will receive 20 minutes to argue its case, and each advocate must speak for a minimum of seven minutes. Teams are judged on their forensics, knowledge of the law, demeanor, and ability to answer questions from the bench.

The Judges

Good judges are the key to a good moot court hearing. Judges are typically lawyers or members of the state or federal bench. At times, law students (especially those with past undergraduate moot court experience) are asked to judge. Past judges at ACMA events have included former US Attorney General John Ashcroft, former White House Counsel, D. Edward Wilson, former legal counsel for the US Department of the Treasury D.J. Gribin, Assistant Attorney General for the State of Maryland Amanda Stakum Conn, Supreme Court reporter for the LA Times David Savage, California Courts of Appeals Justices Paul Turner and Raymond Ikola, a great number of federal judges, including The Honorable Otis Wright, George Schiavelli, and Gerald Lewis, numerous state trial judges, and several law school deans.

Past Oral Advocacy National Champions

From 2001-2010, ACMA has hosted 10 Championship Tournaments. In that time, seven different schools have been crowned as national champions. Patrick Henry College, of Purcellville, Virginia, is the only institution to have won multiple intercollegiate moot court championships.

Year Winner Runner-Up
2001 Hardin Simmons College (Marta DeLeon and Sarah Horn) Fitchburg State College
2002 Howard Payne University (Rob Welker and Lorianna Anderson) University of North Texas
2003 California State University - Long Beach (Thomas Hartnett and Ja'Nene Hall) Patrick Henry College
2004 University of Texas at Arlington (Andrew Stublefield and Mark Melton) College of the Holy Cross
2005 Patrick Henry College (Peter Kamakawiwoole and Sara Wilson) College of the Holy Cross
2006 Patrick Henry College (Brian Wright and Rachel Williams) Patrick Henry College
2007 Armstrong Atlantic State University (Adam Morrison and Brian Dotson) The College of Wooster
2008 The College of Wooster (Katharine McCarthy and Drew Glassroth) Patrick Henry College
2009 Patrick Henry College (Rachel Heflin and Aidan Grano) Patrick Henry College
2010 Patrick Henry College (Rachel Heflin and Jenna Lorence) Baylor University
2011 Patrick Henry College (Alex Harris and Brett Harris) The College of Wooster
Past National Orator Champions
Year Winner Institution
2010 Katharine Andrew Holy Cross
2011 Blake Meadows Patrick Henry College
Written advocacy

The ACMA also sponsors a brief writing contest. Students are not required to prepare briefs in order to compete for the oral advocacy national title. Teams who enter follow a specific set of rules and compete for prizes. The competition is judged by lawyers and law professors. This competition is named for the late Sandra Knerr, who along with her husband, was a dedicated supporter of intercollegiate moot court.

United Kingdom

The courts systems differ in various parts of the United Kingdom. Thus, the style of a moot will often vary depending in which jurisdiction it is to be heard, although some national competitions do exist. The principal differences are between the laws in Scotland and those in England and Wales. Each jurisdiction is dealt with separately below.

England and Wales

In England and Wales the moot will typically simulate proceedings in either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court.

Moot questions generally involve two questions of law that are under dispute and come with a set of facts about the case that have been decided at the first instance trial.[21] Generally the question will surround a subject that is unclear under the present state of the law and for which no direct precedent exists. Mooting is a team effort, consisting of senior or lead counsel and junior counsel. It is normal practice for the senior counsel will take on the first point and the junior the second; although this may vary depending upon the exact nature, and necessary length, of the arguments.[22] Typically the question will focus on one area of law, e.g. tort, contract, criminal law or the law of property.

The question will be provided to the teams a few weeks in advance of the moot along with details as to which of the appellant or respondent they are to represent. It is then up to each team to prepare their case as though they were barristers. Authority for each argument is necessary and will usually take the form of precedent from case law but may also involve legislation. Reliance may also be placed on governmental papers, research from NGOs and academic journals and texts.

A few days before the moot takes place each team will prepare and exchange their skeleton arguments or brief. Copies will also be provided to the judge along with the moot problem. The judge is normally an academic or practising solicitor or barrister.

The moot itself takes the form of an oral argument. The order in which the advocates will speak mirrors that of the actual courts the exercise is based upon. In England and Wales the order would be as follows:

  1. senior counsel for the appellant
  2. senior counsel for the respondent
  3. junior counsel for the appellant
  4. junior counsel for the respondent

The competition may also allow the appellants an additional few minutes in order to reply to the respondents arguments.[23]

After the presentation of arguments has concluded, the judge will retire to deliberate on both the law and the overall winning of the moot. A moot is not won and lost on the legal argument, but on the advocacy skills of the participants. It is often the case that the team that has the weaker legal argument is in a better position as they have to argue that much more persuasively.


In Scotland a moot can be set in a variety of fora; in civil law problems it is set most commonly in either the Inner House of the Court of Session or in the House of Lords, although it is not uncommon for a moot to be heard in the Sheriff Court before the Sheriff or Sheriff Principal. Occasionally, an Employment Appeal Tribunal may also be used as a forum for a Scottish civil law moot.

If the moot problem concerns Criminal Law, the moot will most likely be heard as though in the Appellate division of the High Court of Justiciary (commonly known as the Court of Criminal Appeal).

The moot points and style of the problem are similar to that of England and Wales stated above; however, the format of the moot is significantly different. Junior counsel is more likely to take the first moot point and senior counsel the second (this can however be reversed depending on the problem).

The order in which the Advocates will speak mirrors that of the actual courts the exercise is based upon. The order would be as follows:

  1. junior counsel for the appellant
  2. junior counsel for the respondent
  3. senior counsel for the appellant
  4. senior counsel for the respondent

Please note the terms 'appellant' and 'respondent' are used loosely, and depending on the forum, may not be the correct terms, e.g. in an appeal to the Inner House of the Court of Session (known as a 'reclaiming motion', the appellants are in real life known as 'reclaimers'). Generally, Scottish competitions do not allow the appellants a final right of rebuttal of the respondents' arguments.

The format of the moot is far more adversarial than that of English and Welsh moots. This is primarily due to a more adversarial legal system. This manifests itself in different ways, most notably with the appellants and respondents facing each other during a moot, rather than, as in England and Wales, facing the judge.

There is only one national Scottish competition, the Alexander Stone National Legal Debate, administered by the Law School at the University of Glasgow. All Scottish universities that offer the LL.B. are eligible to take part, although in recent years the competition has been fought out mainly between Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde universities. The final is held in the Alexander Stone Court Room at the University of Glasgow in February or March each year. The current holder of the trophy is Strathclyde.

There is also an annual inter-varsity competition between the Law Schools of Glasgow and Strathclyde, in the form of the Glasgow Sheriff's Cup. This is organised by Glasgow Sheriff Court and is judged by a Senator of the College of Justice. The moot is held annually in May or June each year and takes place in one of the larger court rooms at Glasgow and Strathkelvin Sheriff Court. The current holder of the trophy is Glasgow, while Glasgow University lead the series 11-9.

Law Schools in Scotland also take part in UK-wide competitions, such as the Oxford University Press and the English Speaking Union Moot. These moots are UK-wide in participation, but typically follow the style and law of moots in England and Wales. The University of Glasgow reached the semi-final of the English Speaking Union moot in 2008 and the final in 2005. The University of Dundee reached the semi finals of The Oxford University Press moots in 2009.

Judges in Scottish moots are typically legal academics, solicitors, sheriffs, advocates or Senators of the College of Justice.

See also

  • Mootness, which has a precise meaning in United States law that is quite different from United Kingdom usage.
  • Moot Alumni Association (MAA), the Alumni Association of the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • moot court — n: a mock court in which law students argue hypothetical cases for practice Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996. moot court n …   Law dictionary

  • Moot court — Moot Moot, n. [AS. m[=o]t, gem[=o]t, a meeting; usually in comp.] [Written also {mote}.] 1. A meeting for discussion and deliberation; esp., a meeting of the people of a village or district, in Anglo Saxon times, for the discussion and settlement …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • moot court — n AmE a court in which law students practise holding ↑trials …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • moot court — moot ,court noun count or uncount AMERICAN a court in which law students hold imaginary trials as part of their training …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • moot court — moot′ court′ n. law a mock court for the conduct of hypothetical legal cases, as for students of law • Etymology: 1780–90 …   From formal English to slang

  • moot court — n. a mock court in which hypothetical cases are argued, usually as an academic exercise for law students …   English World dictionary

  • Moot Court — Die Bezeichnung Moot Court kommt ursprünglich aus dem Englischen und bedeutet so viel wie „fiktives Gericht“. Es handelt sich um einen Wettbewerb im Rahmen der juristischen Ausbildung, bei dem Studenten der Rechtswissenschaften ein fiktiver oder… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • moot court — noun a mock court where law students argue hypothetical cases • Topics: ↑law, ↑jurisprudence • Hypernyms: ↑court, ↑tribunal, ↑judicature * * * noun : a mock court in which students of law argue hypothetical cases for practice …   Useful english dictionary

  • moot court — noun Date: 1788 a mock court in which law students argue hypothetical cases for practice …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • moot court — a mock court for the conduct of hypothetical legal cases, as for students of law. [1780 90] * * * …   Universalium

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