They found themselves in the foyer of a prestigious Auckland law firm, surrounded by palm trees and ferns and being offered every refreshment they could possibly imagine... not the outcome they imagined from their first moot competition!
Nina MacDonald, a third year Law and Politics tauira, and Zoe Kellam a third year Law tauira, travelled to Auckland to attend the annual Criminal Bar Association New Zealand (CBANZ) conference in the last weekend of July.
CBANZ comprises anyone who is involved with criminal law and members come together once a year for a conference.
Nina and Zoe were invited to the conference after winning the Otago Student Criminal Bar Association moot.
As well as attending the conference they competed in the New Zealand Student Criminal Bar moot semi-finals, which they won, and then went on to compete in the final.
Zoe said she felt a bit thrown in at the deep end after they came first in the Dunedin quarter final.
“We had never even done a moot before and suddenly we found out that we were going to this prestigious conference and competing against top teams in Auckland.”
The semi-final and the final were held at Meredith Connell law firm where the pair were taken with the firm’s reception area, which was designed to appear like a jungle, says Nina.
“They have two full-time gardeners looking after all these plants and ferns and palm trees.
“There was even bird song playing. It was an immersive experience.”
Zoe says when they walked into the “jungle”, they were treated like royalty.
“Everyone was so well dressed.”
The moot final, against Auckland University students, was held in a replica a High Court room inside the building.
A moot competition is similar to a mock trial, but this one was particularly novel, she says.
The teams mooted a trial that was to be heard in the Supreme Court in a few weeks’ time.
The case that we mooted throughout both the Otago and the New Zealand competitions has actually been heard before in several different courts… but the competition was between the Court of Appeal case and the Supreme Court case, says Nina.
“Basically, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the defendant and now the prosecution are appealing that decision in the next highest court the Supreme Court (where it will be heard by a different panel of Judges).”
The judges of the competition were the lawyers who would be the defence and the prosecution in the real trial.
We joked we were giving them a hand coming up with arguments, says Nina.
“What I really liked was that these people will be opposing each other in the Supreme Court in a few weeks but they were sitting right next to each other and working together.”
The conference and its range of speakers was also “amazing”, says Zoe.
She particularly enjoyed a presentation on the amount of, sometimes misplaced, trust placed in police forensics.
Nina says she particularly enjoyed an “incredible” talk by Judge Nancy Gertner on the American politics of crime and how being tough on crime worsened offending.
The judge also warned the students not to "let your media turn single incidents into propaganda”.
Nina and Zoe agreed that seeing a woman who has succeeded in the career they want to be in was “so inspiring”.
“She made us feel like we really can do anything - and showed us that women can get so far in this space.”
Kōrero by internal communications adviser Alice Billington