Oxford Mooters Triumph in 2012 Varsity Roman Law Moot

Appropriately, for a problem that featured a newly purchased entertainment theatre in Lutetia, the Facetiae Pastorales, the 2012 Oxford v Cambridge Clifford Chance LLP Roman Law Moot Court Competition took place for the first time in the St Cross building’s new moot courtroom, the Cube, on Monday of ninth week of Trinity Term. Kiran Barhey (Hertford), Michelle Kang (Brasenose), Alyssa Stansbury (Magdalen) and Danny Tang (HMC) faced off against, and ultimately defeated, the visiting Cambridge team in their moot before Regius Professors of Civil Law David Ibbetson (Cambridge) and Boudewijn Sirks (Oxford).

Not all was new, however. The problem picked up the story of last year’s protagonist Dominicus Strathocamelus Flamen (DSF), a financial wizard previously sent by Emperor Justinian I to rescue the financially precarious town of Athens in the province of Achaea but who disgraced himself there in a sordid affair involving a Nubian chambermaid. It is now ad 542 and, to help his recovery from stress and depression, DSF is on holiday in the northern Gallic resort town of Illa Insula. At a wild party, Pannonian host Petronius Sarco introduces DSF to a ‘friend’ of his, the beautiful Bella Helena, and suggests that DSF might like to invest in the cosmetics business she plans to launch. Money is handed over via Petronius and the deal is sealed with a nod and a declaration of love.

The next day, Bella and the 50 solidi are gone, and certain less reputable activities of Petronius and Bella come to light. DSF catches up with Bella two weeks later in Lutetia, where she is running a theatre with expensive and irritatingly bubbly white wine and long lines of dancing slave-girls who kick their legs up high. DSF’s reunion with Bella does not go well: she refuses to return his money and he throws a mirror at her, which goes through a wall and hits a stage contraption, dislodging an unsecured counter-weight, which in turn hits one slave-girl, who falls and crushes another. The parties resort to the court of Lutetia to argue claims and counter-claims for recovery of DSF’s investment and for recovery of damages for the losses sustained in respect of the slave-girls.

Joined by Mr Tim Lewis, partner of sponsor Clifford Chance LLP, and an audience of committed forum-watchers, the reverse moot unfolded in the traditional manner, with counsel for both sides developing subtle, if sometimes strained, interpretations of highly suggestive but not altogether comprehensive facts to sustain their arguments about partnership, unjustified enrichment and damage to property. The problem lent itself to a measure of drama, perhaps learning rather more to comedy at times than to tragedy, despite the death of one slave and the permanent disfigurement of another, but advocates on both sides – all of them novi Iustiniani at the end of their first year of legal study – demonstrated a sound knowledge of legal principle and an impressive command of our Emperor’s Digest.

The teams’ coaches, Stelios Tofaris (Cambridge) and Benjamin Spagnolo (Oxford) having rebelled against consecutive draws in the last two moots, amended the rules to force the Regius Professors to a determination this year (in the distinctly unlikely hope that they would overlook D.1.3.31). The Faculty is very proud of Alyssa, Danny, Kiran and Michelle, who were declared the winners of the 2012 contest, and also congratulates Jocelyn Teo (Cambridge), who was awarded the Best Oralist Prize. Both Universities express their sincere appreciation to Clifford Chance LLP for their long-standing support of Roman law mooting and, in particular, of this competition.

2012 Varsity Roman Law Mooters (l to r): Danny Tang (HMC), Amy Gregg (Cambridge), SiJi Fan (Cambridge), Joshua Teng (Cambridge), Alyssa Stansbury (Magdalen), Michelle Kang (Brasenose), Jocelyn Teo (Cambridge) and Kiran Barhey (Hertford)