Moot court is a simulated oral argument, similar to an argument made before an appellate court. The argument lasts around fifteen minutes, during which time the attorney presents an argument and answers questions posed by the panel of judges. It is not a trial: there are no witnesses and no evidence. The arguments are evaluated on the application of the law to the facts of the case.
An oral argument is a part of the appeals process which consists of one party asking the court to uphold or overturn a lower court’s decision. An appeal occurs after there has been a full trial and a final judgment on the case in the lower courts. In these instances, the losing party finds a reason why the trial court and/or the intermediate appeals court’s decision was wrong and is seeking to have the lower courts’ decision overturned by the higher court, Supreme Court. The winning party, then has the opportunity to defend the lower court’s decision on that issue.
At the appellate level, an oral argument is the only opportunity for a lawyer to argue his/her client’s case in person before the court. This argument is limited to the issues raised in their brief and the facts of the case determined in the lower trial court. The argument is made solely by lawyers before a panel of judges.
The purpose of an oral argument is for the attorney to answer questions of the judges about their argument submitted in their brief. And, to make sure the judges understand and focus on the claims made. A good oral argument will point out the essential elements of the case, highlight the brief and explain why the judge should rule in the favor of their client.
Moot Court involves an oral argument appealing a case that has already been heard by a district court. It is not a mock trial; there are no witnesses and no objections. Although the Petitioner will have the opportunity to make a brief rebuttal, it is not a debate.
Oral argument is when attorneys actually argue in front of an appellate court. Moot court is the same thing, except that it is when students are simulating what an oral argument would be like in an actual court. Mock Trial is the actual trial that takes place before the possibility of an appellate argument can even be considered, complete with witnesses, exhibits to be entered into evidence, and a jury who will decide the final verdict. In Mock Trial, the attorneys on both sides are attempting to convince a jury, comprised of citizens, not judges, most of the time there are 12 jurors, as to who is responsible or not responsible, guilty or not guilty. In an oral argument, the attorneys are arguing a legal issue to a panel of 3 -9 judges about whether or not the lower court made the right decision according to what the law states.
When a case is first filed, it will first go to trial court where all the facts will be determined, by a jury, through the presentation of evidence and through the testimony of witnesses. The record from that trial is preserved for appeal. Moot Court oral arguments are what happens at the next level of the judicial process, after a trial is finished, and a jury has set a verdict, the appellate court. The appellate court relies on the facts that came out at the trial level, on appeal, the attorneys get to present their legal arguments for their sides and the judges will interrupt them to ask questions, to get a better understanding of the issue and the arguments being made.
Oral Argument Resources: Audio and Video
2007 Oral Advocacy Workshop featuring WCL alum Tom Goldstein and Judge Boyce Martin
2009 "We The Students" Competition Final Round
2006 "We The Students" Competition MP3 Audio of Final Round
2008 Wechsler First Amendment Tournament Final Round Video
2006 Wechsler First Amendment Tournament Final Round Video