Moot by Twitter

Moot by Twitter
For the first time, law students are being encouraged to tweet during a moot. Unlike traditional moots where the use of social media is against the rules, this one will be all Twitter all the time.
West Coast Environmental Law will be hosting the world’s first Twitter moot on Feb. 21 at 1 p.m. EST.

Andrew Gage, a staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law and moot administrator, says they came up with the idea during a brainstorming session. “We’ve been trying to engage on Twitter for a year and a half now, and we were just looking at examples of interesting things that people had done to raise the profile of their issues via Twitter,” he says.

So he reached out to various environmental law clinics and clubs at law schools to see if students would be interested in the idea. It turns out they are.

Five teams of law students will represent different parties in the virtual moot. Participating law schools include Dalhousie University, Osgoode Hall Law School, University of Ottawa, University of British Columbia, and University of Victoria.

Matthew Nefstead, a second-year student at UVic’s Faculty of Law, says he signed up for the moot because “it sounded like an interesting challenge.” Nefstead tweets regularly, and is currently involved with UVic’s Environmental Law Centre.

Gage says this will give students a chance to build their social media presence and practise making concise legal arguments.

Students will be mooting an appeal from the British Columbia Court of Appeal’s decision in West Moberly First Nations v. British Columbia (Chief Inspector of Mines). The case involves West Moberly’s struggle to protect its land and Burnt Pine caribou herd from First Coal Corp., which is seeking to set up a coal mine on its land.

West Moberly is the focus of the moot as West Coast Environmental Law was involved in the case. “[W]e provided some legal and financial support to the West Moberly First Nations in the case, so we have a direct interest in the case and we thought it was an opportunity to showcase some work that we’ve been involved in,” says Gage. “As well as it’s a precedent-setting case that raises important environmental and aboriginal law issues that we thought would be of interest to a wider audience.”

Nefstead says he became familiar with the case when he worked at Victoria law firm Devlin Gailus last summer, which litigated on behalf of West Moberly.

Three judges will preside over the moot, including author William Deverell, to appeal to an audience outside of the traditional legal realm; University of Calgary law professor Kathleen Mahoney, for her credentials in the legal community; and Toronto lawyer Omar Ha-Redeye, who is very active on Twitter and social media.

Just like a traditional moot, teams are required to submit a factum, however it cannot be longer than two pages. They are also permitted to upload a one-minute video.

Each team will be given 10 minutes to tweet and tweets are limited to 140 characters or less. Judges may intervene with their own tweets at any time. Following the teams’ presentations, one team member from each appellant has one minute to rebut.

Although tweets must be concise, the formality of a traditional moot will be upheld as formal court language is still required. For instance, my lord/my lady = ML, collective judges = ML&Ls, fellow lawyers will be referred to as learned friends = LFs, or participants can refer to others by their Twitter usernames. Participants are also encouraged to use hashtags, such as #STCC for Supreme Twitter Court of Canada.

The judges will rule on the advocacy and legal argument delivered by the teams, specifically on their presentation and clarity of argument, use of social media, and dealing with judicial intervention. The winning team will receive a $500 prize. A “people’s choice” award will also be handed out on based on votes from audience members.

The official Twitter moot rules are available online. You can follow the moot on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/WCELaw/twtmoot.

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