2011 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition

 Co-written by 2011 Jessup Team Members Camille Lucidi, Miriam Milstein, Natasha Wu, and Aminta Raffalovich

If you know what LOAC, IHL, ICCPR, CEDAW, CRC, GC and AP are,* and if you answer all questions with “I have two points to make in response,” then you must be a “FOJ,” a Friend of the Jessup.

The Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, “The Jessup,” is the world’s largest and most famous international moot court competition. Now in its 52nd year, Jessup gathered 500 law school teams from more than 80 countries to work on a single, simulated case presented before the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”).   This year, the problem concerned the “Zetian Provinces,” for which Camille Lucidi, Miriam Milstein, Aminta Raffalovich and Natasha Wu dedicated their hearts and time for the past four months.

THE PROBLEM

The Case Concerning the Zetian Provinces was divided into four issues. The first two dealt with the right to self-defense under international law and the principle of proportionality in laws of armed conflict. The last two issues tackled the controversial bans on wearing a religious garment hiding the face of the wearer (such as burqas) in public spaces and compliance with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”) instruments on anti-bribery.

In the problem, the “Zetians” are a nomadic people spread between the border of Ardenia and Rigalia, the two countries involved in the dispute.  Because of this special status, the Zetians benefit from dual citizenship. Some of the Zetian leaders have demanded from Rigalia more autonomy with an ultimate goal of independence. The region they inhabit in Rigalia is economically important because of its natural resource, coltan. Rigalia has refused to give more autonomy to the Rigalian Zetians, and its current President declared that the government would maintain its centralized tradition. Sparked by disparaging remarks and street violence, a group of Zetians started to mount a campaign of kidnappings and bombings, targeting infrastructure and government buildings. The President of Rigalia immediately declared war against the Zetian Secessionist Movement and its supporters. To facilitate its war, Rigalia requested from a longtime friend and ally, the state of Morgania, the deployment of Predator Drones armed with Hellfire missiles in the Rigalian-Ardenian border region.

Over 50 strikes occurred in Rigalia to terminate the activities of 16 secessionists. Unfortunately, they also resulted in the deaths of over 200 civilians and the injuries of hundreds more. One strike occurred at night and without warning on the territory of Ardenia, where the Zetian decision-maker for all military activities resided. One of the strikes accidentally struck a 300-bed public hospital. Ardenia immediately complained and protested that Rigalia committed an act of aggression against its sovereignty and territorial integrity. It further alleged that the use of drones was disproportionate and unlawful.

The Zetians practice the Masinto religion, which requires girls and women above the age of 14 to wear the “Mavazi,” similar to a burqa and made out of the skin of a sacred deer. Rigalia banned the wearing of Mavazi after the garment was used by a suicide bomber to disguise his identity and avoid security checks. This problem is rooted in the legality of the 2010 laws passed by France and Belgium which ban “all garments covering the face of the wearer prohibiting his/her identification.”

Coltan is a natural resource used in electronic products and in the military industry. The exploration contract for the mine was granted to an Ardenian corporation. At issue is the renewal of the contract, which was allegedly ensured through bribery of a Rigalian enterprise. When the bribery rumors spread, Rigalia requested help from Ardenia to investigate. After considering the demand and intense lobbying carried out by the Ardenian Corporation, Ardenia decided to drop the investigation on economic grounds.

THE TEAM

Proud Jessup Coach and USD Alumnus Peter Stockburger

Coached by Moot Court legend and USD alumnus, Mr. Peter Zlomke Stockburger, the team was initially composed of two 3Ls, Miriam Milstein and Camille Lucidi. Traditionally each year, the Jessup team invites a 2L who has demonstrated excellence in written and oral advocacy at one of the two fall intramural tournaments. Joining a national team and practicing with an experienced coach and former Mooter is an exceptional opportunity for any 2L interested in furthering his or her skills in advocacy. Last year, Miriam Milstein had the opportunity to join the team as a 2L, and her passion for international law and its structured existence led her to compete again with the 2011 team.

This year’s team decided to invite two successful 2Ls to join the team after the Alumni Torts Tournament and the Intellectual Property tournament. The board selected Aminta Raffalovich, 2nd place overall and 2nd place brief at the Alumni Tournament, and Natasha Wu, 4th place overall and 3rd place brief at the Intellectual Property tournament, to represent USD at the Jessup.

THE COMPETITION: PRELIMINARY ROUNDS

A public international law competition is similar to the deployment of Predator Drones in a hostile region. It takes time and preparation to ensure that the objectives will be met. First, the team must prepare for months in order to anticipate the moves of its opponents and gain advantage over them during the battle (or argument). In compliance with the laws of war laid out in Article 47 of Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, the Jessup team researched international law and wrote stellar briefs, balancing their arguments and supporting their contentions with sufficient authority to terminate their opponents’ activities.

Second, once prepared mentally, physical preparation, aka practice, must begin. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday morning, the Jessup team met and trained. They practiced to take off, target objectives, drop hellfire missiles, and land without a scratch to their predator drones with the help of their coach. USD Alumni and former national moot court competitors Andrew Haden, Dan Owens, Kelly Owens, Jerry Gonzales, Angie Gonzales, Matt Ichinose, Frankie DiGiacco, Megan Donohue, Bob Brady, Derek Hecht, Jordon Harlan, Ian Schuler, Hazel Pangan, and Britton Lacy judged the team and provided great insights to help improve advocacy skills. The team is very grateful to them for their support, encouragement, and questions.

As the months passed by, with the support and presence of Mademoiselle Frida (the coach’s dog and team mascot), the team grew together and created unalterable bonds. Finally, with killer themes and styles, the four ladies of the Jessup were ready to take off to Portland, Oregon.

PORTLAND, OREGON

The Jessup Team in Portland: (left to right) Natasha Wu, Aminta Raffalovich, Miriam Milstein, Camille Lucidi

The journey started early on Thursday, February 24 at 6 a.m. in the San Diego Airport. Armed with their Compromis (the Jessup Record), their ICJ cases, and international Conventions, the team took off to Portland where the snow welcomed them. Arriving at the Benson Hotel, where all the competitors stayed, felt like attending the Olympics of international law. The teammates scouted for potential Jessupers to gauge the competition. After a last practice using the ironing board of their hotel room as a podium, the team was ready to start the preliminary rounds the next day.

Preliminary Rounds

Preliminary rounds are spread over two days: two rounds late afternoon/early evening on Friday and two rounds early morning on Saturday. The USD team competed against Thomas Jefferson School of Law, the University of Hawaii, UC Davis, and the University of San Francisco. The University of Hawaii and University of San Francisco were two powerhouses. The University of Hawaii is famous for performing well every year, and USF was one of the top two teams last year and competed this year with returning competitors who had gained the experience of the 2010 international rounds.

Camille Lucidi and Miriam Milstein, respectively as Applicant and Respondent for the first two issues, were undefeated in the four preliminary rounds. Thomas Jefferson School of Law, the University of Hawaii, UC Davis, and the University of San Francisco remained powerless against the clinical arguments USD presented. Compromis cites were dropped like hellfire missiles, and the two USD agents offered a perspective on international law that demonstrated their command of the cases and custom unmatched by their opponents. The concepts of jus ad bellum, the right to resort to force, and jus in bello, the use of force in war, were conflated by most competitors who failed to understand the resulting consequence of altering the threshold for proportionality regarding the use of Drones. The agents for USD attacked those weaknesses with flawless arguments.

Aminta Raffalovich and Natasha Wu, as the 2Ls on the team, and in their first national tournament, were, simply put, unmatched.  The level of argument and composure they displayed in their first national arguments must be recognized.  Aminta Raffalovich declared that “the complexity of reconciling fundamental freedoms such as the right to manifest religion with the threats posed by international terrorist groups is a novel and controversial topic which made these arguments so interesting and challenging as the consequences of legislating in this domain are so tremendous from a legal and human perspective.”

Overall, Mr. Stockburger was proud of the team and declared, “The level of substantive depth, composure, command, and ability to convey the most complex of international legal issues was truly something to be seen.” His impressions were shared by the preliminary judges, who advanced the University of San Diego to the Quarter-Finals ranked sixth out of 22 teams.

First Preliminary Round: USD vs. Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Quarter-Finals   

At the Quarter-Finals, USD was matched up with the third-ranked team, UC Hastings.  As the third-ranked team, Hastings was given the pleading option and chose Applicant.  Miriam Milstein and Natasha Wu were set to argue before the hottest and most well-prepared panel Mr. Stockburger had witnessed in all his years of participating in Jessup. After the round was over, the tournament coordinator described the decision as “one of the closest calls of the tournament.”  The Hastings coach approached Mr. Stockburger and declared that USD was the best team they had faced all tournament and whichever team succeeded, Miriam and Natasha would easily compete on the international level.  In the end, however, Hastings was given the choice to move on, and the team’s tournament was cut short at the quarter-final round.  After the round, the judges said the slight edge went to Hastings after the full arguments and that Miriam Milstein almost won the round on surebuttal.  This is a testament to the team’s determination and skill.

The team won ninth-best memorial, and its written achievements were recognized by the judges, who on each of the preliminary rounds gave USD the advantage based on written pleadings. Miriam Milstein was awarded fourth-best Oralist out of approximately 88 competitors.  It was an impressive performance.  In the end, the team proudly represented USD.  They confirmed to the Jessup community that USD is an annual competitor and a constant threat.  Since 2009, USD has been a semi-finalist, two-time quarter-finalist, three-time memorial award winner, and six-time oralist award winner.  USD has established a reputation at this tournament, and the team this year carried on this tradition. 

As the tournament came to a conclusion, Mr. Stockburger congratulated his Jessupers: “In all my experience dealing with moot court, as well as international law, I have rarely seen anyone as articulate, inherently talented, and dedicated as these four women.  They not only conveyed to the moot court community that USD is a perennial powerhouse at the Jessup tournament, but they displayed an awe-inspiring command of the most complex international legal issues of the day with both unmatched grace and humility.  It is widely recognized that the Pacific Super-Regional is the most competitive regional in the Jessup competition, and they made it look easy.” 

Camille Lucidi, Miriam Milstein, Aminta Raffalovich, and Natasha Wu would like to take this opportunity to thank Peter Stockburger for his dedication to the team, the countless hours he spent with the team at practice, and for his efforts to gather great guest judges.

*Laws of Armed Conflicts, International Humanitarian Law, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Geneva Conventions, and its Additional Protocols.

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