UAlberta Law Wins 2019 Commonwealth Moot!

International victory made possible by second Gale Cup Moot win in two years

Staff Writer - 28 May 2019

Representing Canada, the University of Alberta Faculty of Law's moot team won the 2019 Commonwealth Moot in Livingstone, Zambia in April.

Mooters Leah Strand, '19 JD and Dylan Hanwell, '20 JD, and researcher Nate Gartke, '19 JD, triumphed over the United Kingdom's team in the final round, and were undefeated throughout the competition, besting Australia, Zambia and India. Strand was named Best Mooter of the final round.

UAlberta's team qualified for the Commonwealth Moot by winning the Gale Cup, Canada's premier criminal moot competition in February. There, Strand won Best Oralist and she and Hanwell won Third-Best Factum Overall. Leigh Acheson, '20 JD, was part of the Gale Cup team.

The Commonwealth Moot is held biennially, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Law Conference, so last year's Gale Cup winners did not compete internationally.

Moot competitions are simulated court proceedings at the appeal court level, argued before judges. At the Commonwealth finals, judges were the chief justice of Northern Ireland, the chief justice of Trinidad and Tobago and a New Zealand Supreme Court justice.

The Commonwealth Moot case centred on international human rights law. A fictional country had detained journalists and conducted secret surveillance. Each team had to prepare arguments for both sides, defending the state's justification in some rounds, and arguing it had breached international human rights law in others.

The team had mere weeks to prepare for the Commonwealth Moot, but the almost five months they prepared and practised for the Gale Cup benefited them enormously, said Strand.

"Our edge also came from the creative arguments we put forward and the reasonable positions we adopted," she said. "Some other teams took extreme positions. The importance of the substantive argument can't be understated. For that we have to thank our coaches (criminal lawyer and law professor Peter Sankoff and Mandy MacLeod, Crown prosecutor with Alberta Justice), Nate Gartke, and UAlberta international law professors Joanna Harrington and Linda Reif, among many others."

Said Sankoff, "This was one of the greatest moments of my professional career and I am humbled to have been a small part of it."

The UAlberta Law moot team was supported by Beresh Law (sponsor of the Gale Cup team); and McCarthy Tétrault, Miller Thomson LLP, and members of the Alumni Council whose total support was matched by the university's Alumni Relations office. In addition, the team received support from numerous individuals, including former mooters.