Oxford Victorious in 2013 Varsity Roman Law Moot

Adding a third outright victory to its two past honourable draws, the University of Oxford edged ahead of Cambridge in this seventh year of the annual Oxford v Cambridge Clifford Chance LLP Roman Law Moot Court Competition. The Oxford team, comprising Caroline Greenfield (Brasenose), Michal Hain (St Anne’s), Eewei Seah (Brasenose) and Yu Jie Wu (Magdalen), travelled to Cambridge for the traditional double moot before Regius Professors of Civil Law, David Ibbetson (Cambridge) and Boudewijn Sirks (Oxford).

The Oxford team researched and developed arguments on three grounds. The first was a claim for manifest theft of the plaintiff Figulus’s beautiful white stag, Fautrix, by the defendant Stellio, who took the beast while on a walking holiday in AD 560 – suspecting, but not particularly caring, that it might be someone’s pet. Aside from debate about the necessary animus furandi, this claim required counsel to cut through knotty problems of ownership and possession of a wild beast, which, as the constant childhood companion of his orphaned master and symbol of the protective power of his lost parents’ love, was given considerable freedom over Figulus’s estate but always came when Figulus called. Figulus, though, had recently given up calling Fautrix after adopting the teaching of the Sodalitas Iurium Animalium that human beings should not have property rights over animals.

The second claim was for iniuria by Stellio’s entering Figulus’s land without permission. With no classical or post-classical text directly canvassing the notion of a ‘right to roam’, teams combined careful reading and synthesis of Digest authorities on iniuria and the lex Cornelia de iniuriis with appeals to the underlying principles of contumelia and boni mores in their attempts to persuade the bench for and against the validity of the claim. The final action was so mysterious that not even the two very eminent Romanists who heard the learned (if divergent) arguments of four counsel felt confident enough to rule on the scope and application of the actio utilis ex causa interdicti.

The iudices and oratores retired for dinner with audience members – including Cambridge’s distinguished Arthur Goodhart Visiting Professor of Legal Science, Professor Spyridon Flogaitis – where it was announced that Oxford would retain the shield, and Rachel Decruz (Cambridge) was proclaimed the Best Oralist. The Faculty congratulates all the students who took part in this year’s Moot and especially, of course, the successful Oxford team. Particular thanks are due to long-standing competition sponsors, Clifford Chance LLP, for their interest in, and support of, a contest that every year attracts some of the most talented first-year law students from both Universities, and to the Cambridge team coach, Dr Stelios Tofaris, who kindly consented to the use of his name in the problem – stellio being a newt or spotted-backed lizard known to Pliny, alongside the rather better-known figulus, a potter.

Oxford’s victorious 2013 Varsity Roman Law Moot Team (l to r): Michal Hain (St Anne’s), Eewei Seah (Brasenose), Professor David Ibbetson (Regius Professor of Civil Law in Cambridge), Caroline Greenfield (Brasenose), Yu Jie Wu (Magdalen) and Professor Boudewijn Sirks (Regius Professor of Civil Law in Oxford)