Hon. William Henry Harrison Moot Court Competition | NEXUS Magazine | Alumni | Faculty of Law | UNB

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Faculty of Law

Hon. William Henry Harrison Moot Court Competition

Continuing a longstanding fall tradition at UNB Law, second-year students Emma Funston-Clarke, David Comeau, Kyle Cullen, and Julia Raposo faced off in the 61st installment of the Hon. William Henry Harrison Moot Court Competition. The annual event showcases and celebrates the four students who received the highest grades in the oral advocacy component of the first-year mooting program.

The mooters presented arguments in the fictional case of Reynolds v Mikah, a family law matter centering around the relocation of a child to another province. To outline the case details, the mother, who moved with the child, provided the father with the legal notice required by way of a relocation letter. Despite the father responding informally via text message, saying he was opposed to the relocation, he did not follow the precise format of the form prescribed by the Divorce Act. The mother then moved with the child. Upon learning this news, the father brought an emergency application to bring the child back home, which was ultimately denied because of the father’s failure to use the form.

The father appealed that decision on the ground that the applicable provision of the Divorce Act violated his right to security of the person under s.7 of the Charter. The father argued that the legislation was overbroad and arbitrary because it allows the relocation of a child based on a technicality, rather than the child’s best interests, and further that it provides a judge with discretion to waive the formal requirements of the notice letter, but not those of the response letter. The father argued that the infringement was not justified under s.1 of the Charter.

Kyle and Julia appeared as counsel for the appellant, while David and Emma represented the respondent. Both teams acknowledged the strong guidance and support they received from Prof. Jane Thomson, who organizes the Harrison Moot and wrote the problem.

“Julia and I spent a lot of time discussing the case we planned to make, ensuring that it was cohesive and covered all of the legal issues,” said Kyle. “Prof. Thomson was very supportive and guided us through the family law concepts that we were seeing for the first time, she truly enabled us to build our arguments with confidence.”

“Prof. Thomson’s advice allowed us to really understand the strengths and weaknesses of our positions,” added David. “During the prep stage, I spent most of my time trying to anticipate questions that the panel might ask.”

The mooters had their work cut out for them, appearing in front of a panel of sharp legal minds, all of whom graduated from UNB Law: Hon. Justice Kathleen Quigg (LLB'89), of the New Brunswick Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Nathalie Godbout (LLB’94), of the Court of King’s Bench, and renowned trial advocacy expert, Prof. James Lockyer, K.C. (LLB’75).

“It was a privilege and such a unique and valuable experience,” said Julia. “It brought an exciting challenge knowing we were mooting in front of judges with such a high-level knowledge of family law.”

“There were certainly moments when the judges' questions caught me off guard,” said David. “Within the first few minutes, I had to abandon my main argument and move on to something completely different. Ultimately, I think the panel really challenged us to think quickly and adjust our arguments on the spot.”

The four mooters presented their oral submissions incredibly well. Following the submissions, the panel withdrew for deliberation to determine the top performances.

“I was amazed by the strong advocacy skills exhibited by all four mooters,” said Justice Quigg. “They were all extremely well prepared. It is hard to believe they are only starting their second year of law school.”

“They demonstrated such poise and calm throughout their arguments, even when put on the spot with a tricky question or comment from the bench,” added Justice Godbout. “They were also respectful of each other’s position while advancing their own, a skill that most judges welcome in a courtroom.”

In the end, the Harrison Shield was presented to Emma Funston-Clarke and Kyle Cullen. When asked how it felt to be recognized with this honour, Kyle attributed much of his success to his partner.

“Much of my performance is owed to my moot partner, Julia Raposo. When preparing our case, she challenged every argument I made and forced me to find a way to answer tough questions. I would not have been awarded the Harrison Shield without her. She opened our arguments and set the tone. It made me feel much more at ease when I took to the podium.”

“Being awarded the Harrison Shield was an honour,” shared Emma. “This experience exemplifies one of the many incredible opportunities offered to students to interact with members of the legal community and learn practical skills outside of the classroom.”

Advice for students

All three of the judges were gracious enough to share some sage advice with Nexus readers—advice that will, perhaps, help guide our current 1Ls as they begin their quest for the Harrison Shield.

“Have a strong opening statement and an equally strong conclusion,” advises Justice Quigg.” Give an overview that captures the essence of the appeal in order to interest the judges. Provide a roadmap to assist them in understanding the points you are going to make. After you have made your points, conclude by telling the court why it should adopt your position. What you should really be trying to do is help them draft the decision.”

Justice Godbout places critical importance on controlling the speed of the oral submission.

“My advice is always to slow down and get comfortable with silent pauses. Judges take notes and welcome the opportunity to digest the point you’ve just made before moving on to the next one. Slow and steady wins the race.”

Finally, for Prof. Lockyer, the key to success is to remind yourself that it is not a lecture or a speech, and to always avoid the urge to simply read from your notes.

“In an appeal you want to engage the members of the judiciary in a formal conversation about the principals at play and persuade them that your position is the correct one. I urge students to try to encourage questions, because a question is a window into the mind of the judge. And answer any questions immediately and completely. To me that the recipe for success.”