SALDF Hosts 2008 Animal Law Moot Court and Closing Argument Competition

BY MARISSA DIRKS

Closing argument judges donned robes while performing their adjudications.

Does the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act violate the First Amendment? What liability, if any, does a person have for killing her neighbors’ dogs as they charge an injured deer in her own backyard? How should damages be calculated?During the bitterly cold weekend of February 15-17, 2008, law students from all over the country traveled to Cambridge to grapple with these questions at the 5th Annual Animal Law Moot Court and Closing Argument Competition. The Competition was organized by the National Center for Animal Law at Lewis and Clark Law School and hosted by the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund at Harvard Law.

More than 100 people participated, with students engaging in back-to-back rounds of oral arguments switching sides on the issues. For the finals round on Sunday, February 17, the finalists flipped a coin five minutes before entering the room to determine which team would be the appellants and which would be the appellees. Moot Court competitors had polished oral arguments prepared to demonstrate both that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is outrageously unconstitutional, and that it’s perfectly acceptable.

Closing argument competitors were allowed to choose whether they wanted to represent the plaintiff or the defendant in advance, but then they had to deliver a sophisticated 15 minute memorized presentation to a “jury” explaining negligence and contributory negligence liability and calculating damages, complete with exhibits.

After students completed their moot court or closing argument rounds, they got to listen to feedback from the panel of judges (or jurors). As in past years, the Animal Advocacy Competition drew some of the top animal lawyers, professors, and activists in the country. A representative sample of the judges include: Sarah Luick (Administrative Law Judge and Board Member of the Animal Legal Defense Fund), Paul Waldau (Animal Law Professor at Harvard and Director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy at Tufts), David Wolfson (Professor of Animal Law at Columbia; partner in the Global Corporate Group of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley, and McCoy LLP; and longtime Animal Law scholar), Jeff Ker (General Counsel for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), Nancy Perry (Vice President of the Government Affairs Department of the Humane Society of the United States and Animal Law professor), Daniel Kinburn (General Counsel for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine), and Peter Petersan (Director of the Animal Protection Litigation Department of the Humane Society of the United States). Students enjoyed a banquet Saturday night with the judges, where everyone dined on a three-course vegan meal.

In between rounds Saturday and Sunday, Harvard provided vegan snacks in the hallway of Hauser. No longer is “vegan desert” an oxymoron – the brownies and cookies were enjoyed by vegans and non-vegans alike. Law students, whether interested in animal law or just in practicing their oral advocacy skills, were able to spend some time during their breaks getting to know one another. The competition wasn’t so big that people weren’t able to exchange numbers – an important networking skill to practice early. The world of animal law, while growing, is still an intimate family.

This year’s winners in the moot court competition were Lauren Goldberg and Erin Smith from Lewis and Clark Law School. Michael A. Bauer from the John Marshall School of Law won the closing argument competition. The best brief plaques were awarded to Brittany Ducker and Ashley Duncan from the University of Louisville, Brandeis School of Law (appellants) and Molly Brown and Pamela Vesilind from Vermont Law School (respondents).

The 2008 Animal Advocacy Competition was funded by the Bob Barker Fund for the Study of Animal Rights at Harvard Law School. Upcoming HLS SALDF events include a panel on litigating and legislating in animal law, and its second annual “Working Like a Dog?” study break on the Hark patio during Spring finals. Contact mdirks@law.harvard.edu to get more information.

Those interested in finding out more about the Center for Animal Law’s Legislative Lobbying and Drafting Competition being held next month can visit http://www.lclark.edu/org/ncal/legcomp.html

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