The sun was shining on Wednesday of 8th week, when Hollie Higgins (Worcester), Anthony Kennedy (St Edmund Hall), Kalika Sunger (Trinity) and Scott Tan (Queen’s), accompanied by their coach Benjamin Spagnolo (Magdalen), arrived in Cambridge to moot before the Regius Professors of Civil Law, David Ibbetson (Cambridge) and Boudewijn Sirks (Oxford) in the 2011 Oxford v Cambridge Clifford Chance LLP Roman Law Moot Court Competition.
The sun was not shining, however, for Dominicus Strathocamelus Flamen (DSF), a financial wizard sent by Emperor Justinian I to the town of Athens in the province of Achaea in AD 541, where falling interests rates and unserviceably high public debt had crippled the economy to the point where the Empire might have to step in and take over the debts. Things went well for DSF at the start. He sold a quarter of the assets of the town and its churches and forced the holders of chirographa (transferable loan documents) to accept their redemption on the basis of reduced principal or interest or simply at the price subsequent purchasers had paid to acquire them – as little as 40% of their nominal face value in many cases, including that of Liliana Betancuria. However, DSF was later arrested and indicted on allegations of indecent assault of a Nubian chambermaid at the townhouse he had been occupying in Athens. Accusations of other violent sexual misconduct surfaced and DSF’s rival in the Senate, one Dominicus Villapinius, made an allusive speech in the Senate. Things went from bad to worse when, stirred up by a freedman of a freedman of Villapinius, a crowd gathered to sing songs about the affair outside DSF’s home, resulting in property damage. Moreover, in Achaea, creditors like Betancuria took advantage of DSF’s fall from grace and commenced actions for restitution. DSF himself sued Villapinius and his freedman once removed for insult and wrongful loss and damage.
In the now-traditional double moot, each University’s team mooted both sides of this wholly fictitious set of facts before the most eminent and astute judges of the Empire. Ingenious, if occasionally somewhat unconvincing arguments were advanced on both sides, with all speakers striking an entertaining and informative balance between the close reference to the Corpus Iuris Civilis required for persuasive legal analysis and the rhetorical flourish and political insight apt to the hearing of matters of such high public drama.
For the second consecutive year, the judges found themselves unable to differentiate the teams’ scores and, applying the maxim aequitas est quasi equalitas, awarded a draw. Hollie Higgins and her Cantabrigian counterpart, Joseph Steadman, were jointly awarded the Best Oralist Prize. The Regius Professors singled out this year’s standard of research and presentation as particularly high, in a competition of traditionally exceptional standards, and the Law Faculty is very proud of all four members of the team for the their excellent performance. The histories of Achaea’s escape from debt and of DSF’s defence of his reputation remain to be written.
2011 Varsity Roman Law Mooting Team (l to r): Scott Tan (Queen’s), Hollie Higgins (Worcester), Kalika Sunger (Trinity) and Anthony Kennedy (St Edmund Hall)