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Archive for October, 2010

The first semi-final round (in fact, every round from here on out) was against a team from Pretoria.  This was not the team we argued against the day before.  After waiting for a while, the judges walked in and we began.  This time, we were arguing for the defense.  There is not much to report from the arguments.  We won the round by 1 point and advanced to the finals.  The finals were against another team from Pretoria — who again did a phenomenal job.  Somehow, we won that round again.  Finally, we took on the Afrikaans team from Pretoria — we had a translator to tell us what they were saying — and we won that round, this time unanimously.  Of course, we would not know that until later. 

After arguments, there was a gala themed “Black and White and Hats.”  Strange theme.  But fun.  I wore a black cowboy hat I bought back in undergrad as part of a Wyatt Earp Halloween costume (my buddy was supposed to go as Doc Holiday — which would have made the outfit make sense — but that fell through, he ended up going as a cheerleader — and I ended up just being a cowboy.)

The gala was cool.  Ben, who had coached us up a little between rounds back in South Africa, had a few drinks with us and chatted us up about things to do with our limited time in Joberg.  I danced the electric slide with some of the students (that was the extent of my dancing) and celebrated quite a bit before it was time to head home. 

This will be my last post to this blog.  You can assume that the trip into Joberg was fine and that the trip home went well.  Before I go, however, I have to say a few words in closing.  First, I have to thank Professor Buske for putting this trip together — it was an amazing experience, one that I will never forget, and one that I hope future students get to experience as well.  Next, I have to thank Lynna, who was an awesome co-counsel, and who kept me organized and on track on more occasions than one.  I also need to thank all of the CSL Professors who helped Prof. Buske with mooting and who contributed to and tweaked our arguments along the way.  I truly think this win was a team effort that must be attributed to everyone who helped along the way.  I also need to thank the people who gave money to the community service project we put on for the kids at the boy’s home.  And I have to thank the people who have read this often interrupted, delayed blog, and who have followed our exploits over seas.  We appreciate the support.

Finally — a BIG thanks to everyone who organized, executed, and competed in the UFS Moot Court Competition.  It was a wonderful time.  Everyone was incredibly nice and welcoming, and I felt like I left that country with more friends and more memories then I could ever have imagined could be packed into a single week’s time.  Best of luck to all of you.

Well South Africa — until next time.  Buy a Donkey.

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The High Court in Bloem is, like most city courts, located in the downtown part of the city.  We parked in a massive parking deck, walked down what felt like two-hundred and thirty-seven flights of stairs, and finally entered the High Court itself, which is a beautifully ornate, labrynthine building that is clearly designed to confuse all attorneys and accused who happen to be inside so that no one could effect a quick escape. 

Our first round was against our honorable colleague from Johannesburg.  I say colleague because the poor man’s (his name was Ben) partner dropped out at the last minute due to illness, leaving him to pick up the slack and make arguments he was not entirely familiar with.  The courtroom was a dark, old looking room — we sat at a long table with opposing counsel on the other side and a totally useless microphone jutting out in front of our faces.  We wished each other luck, and prepared ourself for the inevitably shaky opening round.

The judges entered — one a member of the law faculty, the other an actual judge in the local family magistrate court.  Things were bad.  Real quick.  Because we were plaintiff, I argued first.  I think it went pretty well, except the judge kept correcting my procedural language — I didn’t get many questions (a theme that would recur throughout the tournament) — but Lynna was not so lucky.  The judge asked her questions up and down, left and right (mostly way left and way right) and all Lynna could do was the best she could.  Which is what she did.  Our associate across the table had it no better.  At one point, while citing to a certain case, the judge asked Ben for a paragraph and page number in the opinion where she could find the information he mentioned.   I looked at Lynna with what could only be described as a horrific sense of dread.  Lynna and I didn’t hit on much case law in our argument — everything was based primarily on South African statutory and constitutional law.  All I could think was — we’re going to get creamed.

Our second round was much smoother, mostly thanks to the presiding judge, a local Advokat, who seemed to find Lynna and I hilarious.  Or, its possible, he was buying our arguments — either way, we were happy to have a receptive audience after our first round, and we took advantage of it.  Our opposing counsel was a team from Pretoria (a team we would see again) who were incredibly well prepared, organized, and composed.  Again, we felt like we got our butts kicked.  But when they announced the advancing teams at the end of the day, our name was on the list.

The equivalent of the law school’s SBA held a dinner that night in honor of the competitors, which Lynna and I attended.  Back at the guest house, we talked about strategy for the next day.  We agreed that we didn’t love our chances — in fact, we were fairly certain we were going to lose and lose big.  But we decided that we would use this rather than allow it to discourage us.  Since we felt that we would lose no matter what, we had nothing to lose — that’s the feeling I took to bed with me, and I actually slept pretty well.

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Catchin’ Up Part 2

Ok — so I left us in Bloem, having just flown in from Cape Town.  That night, we sat around with our host and brainstormed plans for our community service event with the boy’s house the next day.  We finally arrived on a plan — and I turned in for the night.

The next morning, we started our day at the Cheetah House.  It was awesome.  There were lions there — we got to hang out and play with the youngest lions, and we even got within inches of a full-grown cheetah!  Not something you see everyday, a cheetah.  There were also tigers and leapords.  And Jack Russell Terriers that appeared to have their run of the place, regardless of the obvious threat to their lives.

Before heading to the House, we picked up supplies for the kids we were putting an event on for that afternoon.  We were paying their entrance into Maselspoort, which is a local park with puttputt, pools, waterslides, and big playing fields.  We bought some KFC, some sodas, some beach towels (which was our gift to them) and headed out.  Everything went really well.  The operator of the boy’s home gave Lynna and I some vuvuzelas, and told us about the amazingly adversity some of these boys had gone through.  In just the short time they’ve been alive, these kids have known more hardship and grief then I will ever know.  That they were saved from the streets was a given.  Also given was that they had seen friends hurt, killed, or totally ruined.  They had been addicted to drugs, living by force and theft — in effect, they had known hardly a moment’s peace.  But they came to hang out with us — I played soccer with them (I mostly stood around and tried to figure out what was going on — eventually I subbed out and just blew the vuvuzela obnoxiously while they played.)  It was an unequivocal indicator that hope was still alive as long as they were alive. 

We packed things up and went to a reception to welcome moot court competitors.  The reception was awesome, the food was great, and the people were very welcoming.  We chatted with the other coaches, teams, and event organizers.  We tried to gather as much information as  possible about what the next day’s arguments would entail.  We left with about as much information as we showed up with.  After running through arguments one more time back at the guest house, we put our game faces on and hit the sack.

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Semi-Finals

Saturday morning was semi-finals to be held at the Superior Court of Appeals.  This is the highest court in South Africa other than the Constitutional Court.  We were scheduled to be Defendant against the University of Pretoria team.  We had not gone against this team yet, just their colleagues.

The court house is this huge old building that is being updated right now.  I’m not sure how many court rooms there are, but we were in court room 1.  The ceilings were very high and white with windows all the way at the top.  There were round windows that had dust in the sill.  In the front were five chairs with three red curtains behind.  We would find out later that the middle red curtain would be drawn by the clerk and the judges would come out –like a puppet show!  Of course, much more serious than a puppet show. :)

Our round went well before the three judges.  The other team was very well spoken and Bo and I were not sure how it would end up.  About 30 minutes after the end of our round we found out that we would face Team 12 again (remember them from yesterday?) in the English Division Final. 

Again we lost the toss and again they chose Plaintiff.  The good news is that we knew generally what to expect from their arguments and the bad news is they knew what to expect as well.  It was a tough round with a bigger audience than semis which made me nervous.  Bo didn’t seem to get nervous.  I remember looking back at Prof. Buske before the round and we couldn’t tell if she was praying, thinking, or what.  The clear conclusion was that she was hoping this round went well too.  Last year the CSL team made it to the English Finals and lost to a Pretoria team.

After the round we had finger sandwiches on the steps of the Court House.  The Afrikaan judges seemed to ask many more questions than the English judges so we had to wait an additional hour so that all results could be announced at the same time.  First was the announcement of the Afrikaan winner.  In the finals were two Pretoria teams, so the school represented was clear even before the announcement.  Then it came time for the English announcement.  Bo and I stood there with Prof. Buske as the Pretoria team stood with their four teams of two and coaches.  We won the English Division.

Again we lost the toss and now we were Plaintiff.

In order to participate in the final round we had to use an interpreter.  The other team spoke Afrikaans to the judges and they would reply the same.  The judges spoke to us in English and vice versa (of course).  When the other team spoke we had an interpreter who sat between us while we leaned towards her and she quickly and quietly repeated everything that was said.  This was not easy, but it worked out ok.  The judge would occasionally stop and ask if we’re getting all of this.  I sort of thought that was like when a teacher says “if you’re not here raise your hand” . . . how would we know if we weren’t getting it all?  In any event we thought we were getting most of it.

The hardest part was that Bo had to do a rebuttal against information that had been interpreted to  us.  It’s an uncomfortable position to say “they said x,y, and z” because what if the judge says, actually they said “a, b, and c.”  Either way Bo did a really great rebuttal and we were done.  Our first round Saturday started at 9:30 and at 4:30 we were done and exhausted.

The results will be announced at the Gala that night which will be the topic of my next blog.  Off to midterms.

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Bloemfontein Day 3

Friday was the start of the competition.  The day that we have been preparing for since June was here and we felt ready.  We arrived at the competition after attending a reception the night before attended by all the participating teams.  We were going to be called “Team 1″ for the next two days.  First round was against University of Jo’burg and we were plaintiff.

One of the two judges first round was very strict.  We immediately realized that we weren’t in Kansas anymore and the culture of the South African court was not nearly the same as our limited experience in the US.  Through awkward moments of uncertainty and a little luck we made it through the first round.

The second round was us as defendent and Team 12 as plaintiff.  Team 12 is a team from the University of Pretoria who wins every year.  To listen to them go through the step by step formalities of developing the plaintiff’s case was interesting and lead us to further worry that this competition was going to be tricky.  They were polished speakers who knew the case law like the back of their hand.

To give you some prospective, when we were doing our research it was difficult to find case law that was not Constitutionally relevant.  In our arsenal of cases we didn’t have family law cases and Team 12 was spouting out the names left and right.

Neither of the first rounds were there any results announced immediately, but rather we waited for the announcement.  At the announcement the team numbers of the top four of twelve teams would be announced.  We were in this huge central room in the High Court House complete with really tall ceilings and ornate floors.  The organizers came in and Bo and I looked at each other thinking that after all of the months of preparing and 28 hours of travel may lead us to an end at this announcement.  Thankfully the announcement is in order of team numbers.  We made it to semi-finals.

That evening we sat out on our patio at the Guest House trying to figure out the next day’s plan.  We talked about the things we thought we did well and how we were going to manage our gaps –mostly related to our knowledge of their law.  We decided that we had nothing to lose, everything to gain, and if we were going to do this we may as well have fun.

I will type more later, the Saturday story is worth the wait. :)

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Catching up . . .

The travel transition from Cape Town to Bloem caught me by surprise and so I have quite a bit of catching up to do blog wise.  I’m actually going to jump back to two days ago to begin.

We arrived in Bloem on Wednesday evening.  We were picked up by a young lawyer in training, Adrian [sic?], at the airport.  Adrian is working as Prof. Buske’s assistant/guide/driver while in Bloem, and we benefit from that relationship as well.  Anyway, Adrian dropped us at the guest house (more like a bed and breakfast) where we are staying.  Our host’s name is Hannike [sic?] (pronounced like Hannukah).   I told her that her name sounded like a Jewish holiday.  She told me she had no idea what I was talking about.

Bloem is very different from Cape Town — the weather here is much hotter — but I also have a full-grown shower.  I miss the ocean — but the shower makes a big difference.

We spent the first night in Bloem just kind of relaxing, trying to get our internet to work (which, with the help of Hannike’s husband, a different Adrian [sic?], we were able to do eventually,) and preparing for our day with the boy’s from the boy’s home (and of course, for our time with the baby lions ar the Cheetah House.)

But, as I still have a paper to finish, I am going to save those experiences for the next post.  So long for now . . .

Bo

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Bloemfontein Days 2

As a part of our experience we have the opportunity to think of a way to contribute to the lives of what are called street boys who live in a shelter here in Bloemfontein.  This shelter is not an orphanage and the boys are not placed there by the state, but rather they are boys for whatever reason are literally living on the street.  There are social workers called “street workers” who go out at night seeking these boys.  If successful the street workers convince these boys who often trust no one to come for a shower, bed, and a meal.  Sometimes they stay for a while which means they are off the streets.  According to Linda, the director of the shelter, the end goal is reunification with someone from the family.

We thought it would be fun to put together a day where they could just be kids without the inherent stress the circumstances of their life often bestow upon them.  We went to “Hyper Pick ‘n Pay” (which is essentially Walmart) to buy food, drinks, and new beach towels for them.  Apparently, KFC is a huge treat for them so we also bought them lunch as well and met them and Linda to a huge park with a pool and put-put golf.

There were eleven boys ranging in ages from 9-17 who met us there.  Some of them Prof. Buske remembers from previous similar outings on previous trips and some arrived to the shelter as recently as last week.  They brought with them their swim trunks and one soccer ball between the eleven of them.  They loved the food, especially the cookies and the chicken.  They loved the water although it was probably 70 degrees F.  They loved the put put golf and the trampolines that were built into the ground.  For us future lawyers all three of these activities had potential liability risks to them, but the happiness on their faces that these activities brought clearly outweigh such concerns.

For me, this experience was the highlight of my trip so far.  These boys have been betrayed by the people who are supposed to love them the most.  The outward scars give glimpses into their past, but after talking a little to Linda it’s clear that the scars go no where close to describing the depth of their past.  Despite all of that the joy that was present on their faces and displayed through their laughter made it evident that these sort of experiences are really what life is about.

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