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The University of Auckland Law School has been placed in the top four in the world’s largest and most prestigious moot court contest.
In the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Competition held in Washington DC in late March the Auckland team was narrowly beaten in the semi-finals by Columbia University (New York) on a split decision.
The team of Benedict Tompkins, Mark Tushingham, Matt Beattie and Namita Singh won the prize for the best applicant memorial (written submissions) in the competition and won the runner-up award for combined memorials (applicant and respondent).
It is the best ever result by any New Zealand team.
Now in its 53rd year, the Jessup is the world's largest moot court competition with teams from more than 500 law schools in 80 plus countries taking part. More than 115 teams competed in the international rounds in Washington, drawn from over 600 teams worldwide.
The Jessup simulates a fictional dispute between countries — this year over who can represent a state following a coup, the use of force by a regional international organisation, state immunity and the legality of the destruction of a cultural site — before the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations.
Teams prepare oral and written pleadings arguing both the applicant and respondent sides of the case.
The Auckland team was representing New Zealand for the fifth year running after again winning the main national inter-university competition.
Benedict spoke on both sides of the moot (although on different issues, so as not to get confused), with Mark and Matt alternating. Namita was the team’s researcher. They were coached by senior lecturer Dr Caroline Foster and alumnus Isaac Hikaka.
In the final Moscow State University beat Columbia, who have now been runners-up for the last three years and champions on three previous occasions.
“It was a privilege to represent New Zealand at the Jessup and we’re very pleased with the results we achieved,” says Mark.
According to Benedict, the semi-final was “very close, but in the end Columba was a worthy opponent to go out to, and it was good to hear from the judges afterwards that it was a split 5-4 decision. We exceeded our expectations by getting to the advanced rounds and as the teams (and the judges) got better and better, we learnt an huge amount from the experience.”
Benedict, Matt and Mark have all finished or are near finishing LLB(Hons) or LLB degrees. Benedict will start work on his return from the United States at Luke Cunningham & Clere, the Wellington Crown Solicitors. Mark is working as a junior at Bankside Chambers, Auckland while Matt is about to start at Martelli McKegg.
Namita, the only member of the team with international law training, is currently undertaking a six-month internship at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, working on the trial of Radovan Karadzic.
The generous support of the NZ Law Foundation helped make possible their success in the Jessup.
“The team and coaches worked incredibly hard in the months leading up to the Jessup and their success is very well deserved,” says Dr Andrew Stockley, Dean of Law at Auckland. “Theirs is a fantastic achievement against the world’s best.”