The Foreign Language Communication Programme's 14th annual Bucerius Common Law Moot competition took place in mid-June and, owing to the coronavirus crisis, was held entirely online this year. The moot problem was a highly topical one that concerned the legality of a society-wide lockdown imposed on a fictional developing country in southern Africa with an entrenched and justiciable bill of rights. The question required students to consider the meaning and ambit of fundamental rights, as well as the extent to which these may be limited in a constitutional democracy. The students also engaged with case law dealing with the rights to life, dignity, freedom and security of the person, and freedom of expression.
Judges impressed with quality submissions of final counsels
Of the 14 students who took part in the preliminary rounds of the competition, just four made it through to the Grand Final, which was viewed on ZOOM by a large array of students, family and friends, and academic staff. The Bench was comprised of two members of the Foreign Language Communication Programme, Lezel Roddeck and James Linscott, and a special guest judge from South Africa, Dr Paul Swanepoel, who teaches administrative law and jurisprudence, and was therefore well-versed in the issues under discussion. The judges were very impressed with the quality of the submissions made by all four counsels. Not only did all of the finalists make their submissions fluently and eloquently, but the substance of their arguments revealed that they had carefully researched and considered the issues in the case.
Counsel for the appellants (Pauline Sagemann and Phoebe Spehl) contended that the government should have addressed the crisis by less constitutionally intrusive means such as distributing face masks to citizens and encouraging social distancing, while counsel for the respondents (Mette Rieck and Annika Frohn) steadfastly maintained that the government had acted reasonably in the circumstances, given the magnitude of the disaster and the public health challenges faced by the country in question.
A close call and a tough decision
The teams were very evenly matched, so it was difficult for the judges to decide on a winner. However, in the end the respondents managed to tip the scales in their favour with their carefully considered submissions and persuasive responses to questions from the Bench. The Foreign Language Communication Programme would like to thank all the students who took part in the competition, and warmly congratulates the winning mooters on a job well done!
Author: James Linscott
Photos: Sonja Kunter