Editor's Note: Competing Feb. 27-March 2, the University of Michigan Law School's European Law Moot Court (ELMC) team won the ELMC Regional Final in Bratislava, Slovakia. Winners of the four ELMC Regional Finals qualify to present their arguments March 28 during the European Final at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg. The Michigan Law team was the only non-European team to qualify for the final.
By Jenny WhalenFeb. 5, 2014
European Law Moot Court (ELMC) tip No. 14 reads: Know your oral pleadings by heart – if your coach wakes you in the middle of the night you should go: "Mister President, honoured members of the court ..."
To an observer, such advice may seem extreme, but to the University of Michigan Law School's first ELMC team, it is just one component of an intensive, months-long training regimen.
"This is one of the toughest and most rewarding experiences you can have during law school. You really need to be prepared for it," said LLM Nika Bacic. A member of the 2011 Central and East European Moot Court's first-place team, Bacic has stepped into the role of coach at Michigan Law, advising LLM Chloë Bell, and 3Ls Ali Beidoun, Brian Dearing, and Kyle Luebke as they prepare to compete in one of four ELMC regional finals.
Considered the most prestigious worldwide moot court competition on European Union law, the ELMC is sponsored by the Court of Justice of the EU and judged by CJEU judges and Advocate Generals, with the final round of the competition held on the grounds of the Court in Luxembourg.
Since passing the written round on Jan. 15, the team has doubled its efforts to prepare for the oral rounds, which are set to take place abroad this February. And if the prospect of arguing in front of officials with the stature of Supreme Court justices isn't terrifying enough, there remains the fact that it must also be done in two languages.
"We will be required to switch between English and French," said Bell, who will serve as the team's primary French speaker. "The judges recognize that not everyone has the same level of fluency, but we are expected to be able to respond to questions in French."
Since September, the team has been preparing its arguments for a hypothetical case dealing with EU law, same-sex marriage, residence rights of EU citizens and their family members, cross-border health care, procedural rights, and many other specific issues in this vein. However, preparation is not as simple as picking a side.
"We get the hypothetical case and are asked to defend it as both the applicant and the defense," Bacic said. "We must research numerous areas of EU law to be able to defend both sides."
The team must also prepare the case as the Advocate General, whose job is to present opinions on cases and arguments brought before the Court publicly and impartially.
"The four questions in the case are very different," Dearing said. "All are related, but have required us to research different areas of EU law."
"That's the scary part," Bell added. "You don't know what the judges will ask you. You have to think of ways to poke holes in your own argument to be prepared."
During the week, this means spending 20 or more hours poring over any and all case law they can find. On weekends, it is firing questions at one another in a Reading Room study lounge. And though Bacic hasn't taken ELMC Tip No. 14 literally, at least not yet, she's pushing her team hard to avoid any surprises during competition.
"One day Nika dropped a 150-page document on the anti-discrimination law of the EU in my lap and told me to read it, just in case one of the judges question us in this area," Luebke said. "You need to know everything."
With their regional final less than a month away, the team is nervous, but also excited to represent the Law School.
"This experience is very important to us as we are the first team ever to participate from the University of Michigan," Bacic said. "U-M has preeminence in the study of EU law both within the U.S. and around the world. It is our job not only to prove ourselves as participants, but also to proudly represent our school."
The team added special thanks to those whose support will enable them to attend the competition in Europe, specifically: Prof. Daniel Halberstam, Assistant Dean Roopal Shah, Center for International and Comparative Law, Center for European Studies, Center for Russian and East European Studies, and U-M Office of the President.
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