Last week was my first, and hopefully last, journey into the world of moot court.
Now, if you don’t know what moot court is, don’t worry. I didn’t know what it was either until recently.
Simply put: moot court is where you argue for and against a law just like in a court.
You read a bunch of legal cases, judicial opinion and case law. As well as the fictional scenario that your argument surrounds.
The fictional scenario for last week’s moot court tournament revolved around the issue of abortion.
The case involved a woman who wanted to get an abortion in a state that had a complicated set of regulations surrounding abortion procedures.
I won’t go into specifics, but it was an interesting hypothetical scenario. One that I enjoyed analyzing and lining up with my own beliefs.
See, that’s where it got interesting.
It’s also what I enjoyed about moot court.
“How would this line up with my worldview?”
Contemplating scenarios like the moot court one helps me analyze my own belief system.
What would I do in that situation? Can I justify this stance? Does this go against any moral standard? Could I justify my stance on the issue?
Then that brings up how do I justify it?
How do I justify my stance on the issue?
In moot court, the goal is to argue like a constitutional lawyer. So far, it just seems like you’re using case law to validate other laws.
Circular reasoning anyone?
And that’s something that’s been lurking on my mind recently.
“Are you seriously telling me that I have to defend or attack a law based on what other laws say?”
Does that mean the government is defining what is legitimate for the government to do?
If that’s the case, then I’m not ok with that.
And most of the time, they’re not even trying to be that.
Most of the time, it’s in the name of “the public good,” or “national security.”
Tell me you haven’t heard those before?
I know that moot court is just a fictional exercise, but I had a problem arguing it from case law.
Yes, it’s just a school assignment.
“Get over it,” you say.
But here’s the thing…
Nobody was criticizing the process.
Yes, my fellow students might have just been “doing the assignment.” And I don’t blame them. That’s how school works, but I wish it was different.
I wish I “could just do the assignment.” But my brain goes farther than the grade and the class handout.
It’s kind of a handicap of mine. Ok, let’s rephrase that. It’s handicap when it comes to school.
In the real world, I’m fine.
In the real world, it’s one of my strongest weapons.
In the real world, it’s an advantage.
In school, it makes me ponder the morality of it all.
“Why should I analyze this law based on previous case law? How do the decisions of judges legitimize the law?”
And that’s a problem.
It’s a problem because I just need to do the work. I’m already cynical as it is toward school, the law, and the government.
Heck, my roommates know it. My classmates know it. My friends know it.
…And they tease me regularly about it.
Can my cynical nature be a bad thing at times?
Does it help me keep a cautious attitude toward political issues?
Last week’s moot court tournament was a prime example of that.
Yes it’s just an assignment, but it’s also a moral conundrum. One that I racked my brain over trying to figure out.
I haven’t figured out the legitimacy of the case, yet. But I have decided where I can stand on another issue.
The Issue: how should you decide the legitimacy of the law?
The Answer: the law should not be justified by case law, judges, or any other governmental entity. It should be justified the populace, and tested against the principles of individual freedom.
If you resort to justifying the law through the lens of past law then all you’re doing is saying that the government is the ultimate authority on whether its actions are right or wrong.
I’ll let you think through the ramifications of that.
They’re not pretty.
In the end, last week’s moot court tournament made me think…just not in the way that my professors thought it would.
If you want to judge the law, you need to judge it by a higher standard. The government is not that standard. (click to tweet)
It’s not even a relatively good standard for what is right and wrong.
Governments are subjective.
They change fast.
They’re born. They’re reformed. They’re revolutionized. They die.
Use a higher standard to judge the law. That’s all I ask of you.