The Moot Story by Priscilla A. Vitoh

Photo : Emmanuel Dei-Tumi and Priscilla Vitoh, Moot Committee heads

 

It was a bright happy day when Emmanuel Dei-Tumi and I, the newly minted co-heads of the Moot & Advocacy Society, sat at Campus Hub. Our aim was to plan for the 2018/2019 academic year with respect to Moot. With a backdrop of the African Human Rights Moot Court (AHRMC) in which we had both played active roles as volunteer coordinators we sought to introduce a moot competition in UG worth its salt against all law faculties. Our goal was not at all altruistic. We had been excited by the AHRMC and we too wanted to moot. We had seen Aniela and Keziah wipe the floor with most of their competitors and saw the build up, the sheer thrill, the adrenalin. We wanted that in UG and we wanted to be a part of it. Not as organizers but as worthy competitors. We were going to come up with a competition that would draw the attention and involvement of a significant number of the best brains in the faculty. Flowing from the LSU President, Yoofi’s idea about the formation of student firms, we decided to build the competition around it.

Our next quest was finding the right group of people to work with. Our team started building from then but it actually only became the full-fledged team by the time the call to form firms was put out. Then came the first hurdle. This hurdle which I like to call Apreku, took the wind out of the sails of Dei-Tumi and I. During our first committee meeting Apreku, in level 200, just casually dropped the phrase “nemo judex in causa sua” to support his argument that we as Heads of moot could not compete in a competition we were organizing. Ofcourse we knew this to be true and yes the whole committee were fully in support of preventing this travesty against natural justice. Well, if we couldn’t moot, then we would go down in history as leading the charge to organize the best moot the faculty had seen in recent years.

At this point, though we had ambition and drive, and though student interest was garnered we had no patron. The main lecturer on whose support we knew we could count had unfortunately gone on sabbatical and had to hang up his moot boots. We spoke to almost all the lecturers in the faculty and got an interesting array of rejection such as “I just don’t like moot” to “I’m too busy”. The most painful for me was “I’ve given moot my due some years ago and I am no longer interested in helping at all”. We nearly got discouraged at that point but we were luckily pointed to Dr. Stephens who although was a bit hesitant. agreed to oversee our work so far as we didn’t expect too much from him.

His initial assertion turned out to be a big lie because he did more than placidly oversee. He shaped the trajectory of the moot by bringing in a large caliber of people from the legal fraternity to partake and assist. His motto during the course of the program was “envision it, tell me what you want and I will make it happen”. And that he did. When he sent the names of the lawyers he believed would be good picks as judges, I was initially star struck just by the names. Speaking to them and convincing them to come was a challenge of its own but luckily a large majority of the legal practitioners as well as the firms whose support we sought either as judges or sponsors for awards or internship slots were receptive about the idea. I dare say much more than the faculty in which we belonged.

Photo: Amegacher, Brobbey and Marful-Sau JJSC with some finalists and the co-heads of the moot committee

The story of moot from my perspective can never be completely written without sharing a mind boggling experience I had at the hands of one lawyer. I called him to invite him to sit as a judge for the second round of the preliminary rounds. Several times in vain I called and even sent text messages. When I finally got through to him a couple of days later, this man proceeded to yell, and lambast about why I didn’t call him earlier. To him my attempts were all nonsense because he was very popular. I should have looked for his office and come to find him there. He then refused to print 60 pages of written submissions with his own paper and ink and insisted that I must print the documents and bring it to him by the end of the day or else he would not read and proceeded to hang up on me. My word! I had forgotten that such rude people existed. Of course Dr. Stephens refused to save me the trouble of dealing with him directly and insisted that I must continue to deal with him so I build a tougher skin. (I wasn’t even trying to become leather). Well after I saw how he dealt with the firms which came to his courtroom, I found solace. After all I wasn’t the only abused. Truth is, he turned out to be somewhat a Hyde and Jekyll kind of man.  I was surprised of how pleasant he was to me in person.

Photo: A moot contestant during the finals

 

The journey from the launch, preliminary rounds through to the finals of the inter-firm competition was on a tough road but it was by no means lonely. By the time the launch was over we had formed a formidable team who owned the program and their roles in it and worked on it in Kwame Baah’s words, with German precision. April and Owusua with their clerks and ushers; Thelma with her slides and research; Roland with his big ideas and coordination skills; Hafiz, Lilian and Abena with their computation of scores; Christiana with the firms and hosting the judges and of course Victor and other members of the team with the drafting of the hypothetical cases. On the day of the finals when we were all breathing on the “big three” (i.e. Hafiz, Lilian and Abena) to hurry with the scores, they would not be perturbed. They wanted to come up with credible scores they could defend. And when my laptop decided to go off just when we had finished putting in the scores, we waited together, all 12 of us. Sitting on nails and trembling in our shoes, praying that my mad laptop had AutoSaved the scores inputted. Together we were a team and together we pushed. We almost gave up many times. When firm members approached us rudely and antagonistically for what they felt was our failures; when faculty members turned a blind eye and especially when some members of the student body were adamant that the drama moot, should remain. We wondered if we were serving a dish that the intended eaters were not interested in.

Then came the issue of money. We had big plans and exciting ideas for the finale but of course none of that was a legal tender. We needed actual cash to bring all the plans to life. Though we had found means from donors like JLD & MB to organize all the previous sessions, we had relied on the belief that the finals of Moot would be funded by LSU. Unfortunately, although the LSU gave us as much support as they could, it was not enough and we had to find a way out.Our only resort was Mr. Dame, the Deputy AG who had promised a cash price at the moot launch for the best oralist.Finding and getting access to him was a whole hurdle on its own but we were eventually successful. After speaking to him and telling him our predicament, he agreed that the cash he would give could be apportioned differently to allow us cover our cost and be able to host the program. So the finals was saved! We had to cut down on a lot of things we had planned to do and the best oralist unfortunately lost a significant amount of the cash price but we were able to have a final and were even able to squeeze up a cash price for the winning firm to give their members some sort of monetary assistance when they embark on their internship during the vacation.

Photo: Winning Firm Gyamfi Appiagyei-Atua Farouta law firm with Brobbey JSC

 

Upon hindsight, there is a lot we could have done better especially with respect to communication. We did not do a perfect job but we did try our best. Hopefully, the next moot executives will build on what we did and even do a much better job. At the end, the competition brought a large number of us together as a faculty. We even had active support from past members especially the immediate past moot head Jonathan Alua who assisted us in getting our main sponsor and crowned it by serving as MC for the finals. Turn out in all the events were massive. The support we garnered was more than the naysayers we had. We had come, guns blazing to give the Moot Society a new direction with a competition that was more tailored towards honing legal skills especially advocacy. Together as a student body we instituted a competition worth being associated with the oldest law faculty in Ghana. Entertaining yet educative and through which we discovered and reaffirmed the brilliance of the members of this faculty. For this we are eternally grateful.