For the second year in a row, a University of Alberta Faculty of Law team has won the Gale Cup Moot — and this year the victory qualifies it to represent Canada at the Commonwealth Law Moot in Zambia in April.
Students Leah Strand, ‘19 JD, and Dylan Hanwell, ‘20 JD, supported by co-coaches Professor Peter Sankoff and Mandy MacLeod, ‘14 JD (a Crown prosecutor and former Gale Cup finalist), mooted their way past the University of Saskatchewan and McGill University, before besting the Université de Quebec à Montreal, Queen’s University and the University of Toronto in the finals to win Canada’s premier criminal moot competition.
Moot competitions are simulated court proceedings at the appeal court level, where law students argue before judges, not juries. Many of the national competitions are judged by justices of the Supreme Court of Canada.
UAlberta Law is the first repeat winner since 1982, and the only team to win twice in a row since the competition was opened up to all Canadian law schools. The Faculty has become the country’s best-performing law school, making the finals five times in seven years and earning the most team and individual prizes in that period, with a total of 14.
“Winning the 2019 Gale Cup Moot was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Strand. “I am so honoured that I had the opportunity to be part of such a stellar team. Zambia here we come!”
In addition to her win as part of UAlberta’s respondent team (which argued a position representing the defendant in the case), Strand won Best Oralist of the Final Round. Strand and Hanwell also won Third-Best Factum Overall.
Nate Gartke, ‘19 JD and Leigh Acheson, ‘20 JD, formed the appellant team from UAlberta Law (representing the Crown), and performed very well during the preliminary rounds.
“Watching students excel in this way is the very best part of being a moot coach,” said Sankoff. “Honestly, this is one of the highlights of my professional career. It is not easy to win the Gale Cup.”
The subject of this year’s moot was an appeal of the Supreme Court’s decision in R v Marakah, which involved Charter issues focusing on sections 8 & 24 (2), and whether text messages seized by police from a co-conspirator's telephone should be excluded from the trial of the accused.
UAlberta triumphed over 18 Canadian law schools at the tournament, which was held at Osgoode Hall School of Law at York University. This year’s final round took place in front of Supreme Court Justice Sheilah Martin, Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Patrick Healy and British Columbia Supreme Court Judge Patrice Abrioux.
The students started preparing factums for both sides of the argument in October. Oral practice began in January, with numerous members of the Edmonton bar and some of last year’s Gale Cup-winning team (Sarah Offredi, ‘19 JD and Kritika Sharma, ‘19 JD, and articling student Heather Cave, ‘18 JD) offering constructive criticism. Then the team practised before members of Edmonton’s judiciary at the Edmonton Courthouse.
The night and morning before the moot competition in Toronto, the students were grilled by some of Toronto’s top criminal appellate lawyers, a practice Sankoff believes was key to the win.
“They absolutely bombarded our team with questions that were so difficult that simply making it through the barrage was viewed as a success,” he said.
UAlberta Law’s Gale Cup team has been sponsored for several years by Beresh Law, adding a crucial component to its success, said Sankoff. “Moot competitions of this sort are expensive and time-consuming. The support of Beresh Law was integral to this victory.”
The Commonwealth Law Moot in Livingston, Zambia, will be held in conjunction with the 21st Commonwealth Law Conference. It is a biennial conference, so this year’s win tempers the disappointment felt by last year’s UAlberta team, which won the Gale Cup in an “off” year and did not have the opportunity to compete internationally.
“Going to Zambia for an international moot is a bit surreal, but I’m very excited to go,” said Hanwell.