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Curtin win not a ‘moot point’ – Law students beat 26 Asia-Pacific teams to win prestigious mooting competition

Media release

A team of three Curtin University law students has won the Asia Pacific Regional Round of the 2016 Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition in India, the first time in 10 years that an Australian team has triumphed.

Competing teams were from universities in China, Indonesia, India, Iran, Singapore, Nepal and Australia.

Curtin Associate Professor of Law and team Coach, Vernon Nase, explained mooting as the oral presentation of legal arguments in a case to a bench of judges before a court. During the competition, students were required to present their case in a set time period and answer questions from the judges while making their submissions to the court.

The Curtin team of law students included Ricardo Napper, Rachel O’Meara, and Jocelyn Watts with Rowan Stotesbury as Assistant Coach. Together they argued the competition scenario problem for 2016 which was between two fictitious countries, Banche and Rastalia.

Associate Professor Nase said the scenario concerned issues of supervision and control over the manufacture of a spacecraft; damage to a satellite in orbit due to a rare solar windstorm (a potential ‘force major’ event); a failed attempt to remove the satellite by grappling; damage to a spacecraft from space debris; the use of a laser device in an unsuccessful attempt to change the trajectory of a satellite; damage and death from the emergency landing of a spacecraft in distress here on Earth; and a claim for asylum made by an astronaut.

The simulated hearings were before the International Court of Justice with the World Final of the moot being argued before a bench of current judges from the International Court of Justice in Mexico in September, 2016.

“The win was based on work the students produced over an eight to nine month period, during which they researched and dissected a complicated area of law involving a number of space-related conventions and public international law principles, including the development of customary international law,” Associate Professor Nase said.

“They also prepared written submissions, two 14,000 word memorials, one for each side of the argument, and then practised presenting their cases to the team’s coach, assistant coach, academics and practitioners.

“The students won because they had the best legal arguments backed up by deep scholarly support and had the right answers to the questions they were asked, no matter how hard they were,” Associate Professor Nase said.

The students will now compete against one of the other three regional winners from the Americas, Europe and Africa in September at the World Finals event in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“Those winners will then moot in the World Final before a current bench comprised of judges from the International Court of Justice,” Associate Professor Nase said.

“The practice of international mooting is highly regarded in the legal industry and this win is truly a great honour for these students.”