PUBLISHED:April 22, 2010

Duke Law teams fare well in international moot court competitions

For the third consecutive year, a Duke Law team has won the North American Regional Grand Final Round of the ELSA World Trade Organization (WTO) Moot Court Competition. A second team, competing in the Willem Vis Moot Arbitration Competition in Austria, won several rounds of competition before a narrow loss to Kings College London, the eventual winners of the tournament, in the round of 16.

ELSA WTO Moot Court Competition
First-year classmates Calvin Winder, Catherine Martinez, Lucy Chang, and Dayné Duff, who competed in the WTO competition in Ottawa, Canada, in March, also won a number of accolades for oral and written advocacy: They won team awards for the best complainant's written submission and the best overall written submission; Winder was named best orator in the grand final round and the third-best orator in the preliminary rounds; and Martinez received an honorable mention as the fourth-best orator in the preliminary rounds.

The team now advances to represent North America in the international round of the competition — the “final oral round” — in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on May 24 through 30.

“We're especially proud of this year's team,” said Michael Gilles JD/LLM ’10, one of the team coaches. “These first-year students have worked extremely hard to develop their expertise in an exceptionally complex area of law.”

This year’s competition case presents a dispute between two neighboring WTO member countries concerning legislation restricting certain intellectual property rights as well as transit in certain goods through the territory of one of the parties, Gilles explained. The complaining party alleges violations of both the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) agreements, while the responding party refutes those allegations and asserts defenses under various exceptions to those agreements. “The case focuses heavily on international intellectual property law, including patent, trademark, and geographic indication rights,” he said. “It also implicates highly controversial and unsettled areas of WTO jurisprudence, including the role of preferential trade agreements, the scope of exceptions to the covered agreements, and the interaction between the TRIPS and GATT agreements in cases where their provisions may overlap.”

In Ottawa, the Duke Law team faced off against teams from the University of Ottawa, the University of Pennsylvania, and the American University Washington College of Law. In the grand final round they competed against the University of Ottawa, the top-ranked team after the preliminary rounds.

The team is coached by 3Ls who competed in previous years — Gilles, Greg Dixon, Amber Jordan, and Jonathan Skinner. Duke’s Center for International and Comparative Law supported the team’s participation in the North American Regional Round.

The ELSA Moot Court Competition, sponsored by the European Law Students Association, is a simulated hearing in the WTO dispute- settlement system. Competitor teams represent both the complainant and respondent parties to the case by presenting oral submissions in front of a panel.

Willem Vis Moot Arbitration Competition
Dixon ’10, Sheena Paul ’10, James Pearce JD/LLM ’11, and Tim Reibold ’10 participated in the 17th annual Willem Vis Moot Arbitration Competition, held in Vienna, Austria, March 26-April 1. Their team, finished with the second-highest ranking of the more than 50 American teams at the tournament. Additionally, Dixon and Pearce received individual awards: Dixon tied for runner-up best oralist and Peace earned an oralist honorable mention award. The team is coached by coached by Senior Lecturing Fellow Charles Holton ’73, a partner at Womble Carlyle Sandridge and Rice who teaches arbitration law and practice, and Assistant Dean for International Studies Jennifer Maher ’83.

The students tackled a complicated arbitration issue involving the delivery of water pumps from one country to a utility in another. The utility cancels the contract for delivery of the pumps after they are delivered weeks late owing to circumstances including the introduction of environmental regulations requiring that the pumps be refashioned, damaged locks in the Isthmus Canal, and a military coup. Students argued for the buyer and seller, focusing on specific contractual details, and the application of the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods.

“Competing at the Vis Moot Competition for the Duke team was an incredible experience — there were over 1,200 students in attendance, representing approximately 260 teams from all over the world,” said Paul, adding that she was impressed by her team’s performance in the school’s second appearance at the tournament.

“I look forward to seeing next year's team advance even further,” she said.

While in Vienna, the team enjoyed a dinner at a traditional restaurant, arranged by Viennese alumni in their honor. They were joined by students admitted to Duke Law’s LLM class of 2011, several of whom were in Vienna for the competition.