Moot court is a simulated oral argument, similar to an argument made before an appellate court. For the High School Competition, each competitor's argument lasts fifteen minutes, during which time the attorney presents an argument and answers questions posed by the panel of judges. It is not a trial, so there are no witnesses or discussions of evidence. Moot court 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, in which 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 reasons why a lower court decisions was wrong, and seeks to have that decision overturned by the higher court, Supreme Court. The winning party 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 or her client’s case in person before the court. This argument is limited to the issues raised in his or her 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 judges' questions about the arguments submitted in a brief. This ensures that 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.
When a case is filed, it will first go to trial court where all the facts will be determined by a jury. Attorneys try to prove that a defendant is guilty or not guilty hrough 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 present the legal arguments for their sides. Judges will interrupt them to ask questions, to get a better understanding of the issue and the arguments being made.
Mock trial simulates an actual trial which would take place before the possibility of an appellate argument can even be considered. Mock trial involves witnesses, exhibits to be entered into evidence, and a jury who will decide the final verdict. In mock trial, the attorneys on both sides attempt to convince a jury - comprised of citizens, not judges - who is guilty or not guilty. Most of the time there are 12 jurors.
Moot court simulates an oral argument at the appellate level. There are no witnesses and no objections. Rather, in oral argument, competitors will focus on the application of the law to a set of facts. Although the Petitioner will have the opportunity to make a brief rebuttal, it is not a debate.
Oral Argument Resources: Audio and Video
2009 "We The Students" Competition Final Round
2008 Wechsler First Amendment Tournament Final Round Video
2007 Oral Advocacy Workshop featuring WCL alum Tom Goldstein and Judge Boyce Martin
2006 "We The Students" Competition MP3 Audio of Final Round
2006 Wechsler First Amendment Tournament Final Round Video