December 2019 Māori Law Review

Te Kōkiri : Advocacy – 2019 Te Hunga Roia Māori Moot

Māori Law Review consultant editor Judge Craig Coxhead looks at the mooting competition that takes place at the annual conference of Te Hunga Roia Māori o Aotearoa - the Māori Law Society.

Te Hunga Roia Māori (THRM) moot competitions have now become an essential and permanent part of the annual THRM conference – ka tika!

The 2019 THRM moot competition was held in the Supreme Court/Te Kōti Mana Nui on 29 August 2019.  Whether one is arguing a case as a lawyer in the Supreme Court or mooting as a law student, it can be a daunting and rare experience.  Six students took on this challenging experience of arguing a case in Te Kōti Mana Nui (Supreme Court) before two Supreme Court Justices, Justice Ellen France and Justice Joe Williams, lawyers Horiana Irwin-Easthope and Alana Thomas, and myself.

As Judges we were all impressed at how these students displayed confidence, composure, ihi and wehi as they engaged with us on a difficult topic of law and tikanga.

Nei rā ka mihi ki ngā tauira i tū i te mura o te ahi - Rebekah Bright (Waikato University), Nerys Udy (Otago University), Lucy Pia (Auckland University of Technology), Ellie Pearson (Canterbury University), Nopera Dennis-McCarthy (Victoria University) and Kahukiwi Piripi (Auckland University).

The moot topic this year was an adaptation of the Court of Appeal’s decision in Ngaronoa v Attorney-General [2017] NZCA 351, [2017] 3 NZLR 643.  This is an intricate case intertwined in multifaceted legal issues.  The mooters were presented with the task of appealing the Court of Appeal decision to the Supreme Court.  Just to add another dimension to the scenario, the problem for mooting was modified to include issues of tikanga.

There are many reasons why students should engage in mooting.  Moots provide a holistic approach to learning the law.  Students can put their research and written skills to the test in oral arguments.  It is their opportunity to have their arguments tested by experienced Judges through questions, demonstrate their persuasive abilities, and their understanding of the law.

Further, mooting enables students to engage deeply about interesting and topical legal issues by testing their thinking and understanding of topics, in a supportive environment.  While most students find mooting to be testing, it is also an enjoyable experience.  Students find that THRM moots also provide them with the added benefit of potential employment, as often partners or directors of law firms approach the students with prospective job opportunities.

The THRM moots are special.  Unlike other moots, the THRM moots integrate kawa and tikanga and encourage the use of te reo Māori amongst established court formalities.  The moots commence with a karakia and the mooters often begin their submissions with a mihi.  Students are afforded the experience of arguing tikanga issues, Treaty issues, and the opportunity to moot solely in te reo Māori or in te reo and English.  The students are all Māori.  The Judges are generally all Māori and the supportive onlookers of fellow students, lawyers and whānau are mostly Māori.  There is a quintessential āhuatanga Māori to the THRM moots.

In terms of judging moots, I always like to ask students to summarise their argument into one sentence.  Some students will repeat their written submissions verbatim, whereas others will reply with a long-winded spiel of irrelevance.  However, good mooters will show a clear understanding of the facts and law by summarising their arguments into one succinct crisp sentence.  In order to do this, it is important that students know what te ngako, te pūtake, the essence, of their case is.  A good indication that students have the ability to do this is when they can crystallise the complex issues, facts and law into a key summary.

In my opinion, it is also essential that mooters, in the limited time they have, engage with the judges.  By no means is this an easy task, but it is very important.  Good mooters have the ability to turn the tense mooting atmosphere into a relaxing situation of kōrerorero - korero rōia ki te Kaiwhakawā - Kaiwhakawā ki te rōia, where they and the judges are basically having a kōrero - a chat - about the issues, the tikanga and the law.

In this regard, the 2019 mooters should be congratulated for not only their mooting skills but also their critical ability to engage with the bench, and even if it was just for a few moments, in a particularly tense atmosphere create a few moments of laughter.

I said above that THRM moots are special.  The 2019 event was extra special because of the prestige and mana of the venue - Te Kōti Mana Nui (the Supreme Court).   It was noted on the night that this was the first occasion upon which someone presented submissions in the Supreme Court in te reo.  This was a momentous occasion, especially for the eventual moot winner, Kahukiwi Piripi.  Nei rā te mihinui, nei rā te arohanui, nei rā te tangi ki a koe Kahukiwi.  We all look forward to the day, which may not be that far away, when a lawyer presents their submissions in the Supreme Court in te reo, and te reo flows as freely in the Supreme Court as it did at this year’s THRM Moots.

Te reo has always been a positive aspect – a normal part of the THRM moots.  Students speak te reo.  Judges ask questions in te reo.  Students debate and discuss tikanga and Māori concepts in te reo or a mixture of te reo and English.  Te reo flows easily and with no fuss.  Our wero, our challenge for students, lawyers and Judges is to replicate the free flowing te reo displayed in THRM Moots into our Courts – all Courts.

Nā reira, kei ngā tauira, kāore e ārikarika āku mihi ki a koutou. Nā koutou nei te waka e kōkiri, ā, kua eke, kua eke panuku koutou, kua eke Tangaroa tātou, whano, whano, haramai te toki! Haumi ē! Hui ē! Tāiki ē!