[The following is a guest post by Dan Joyner, Professor of Law at the University of Alabama. Our thanks to him for contributing it.]
So, as you probably guessed from the title of this post, it’s going to be a bit of a rant. But this has been festering inside me for the past five years and I want to get it out. I’m on a plane right now flying back from the U.S. Midwest Regional of the Jessup International Law Moot Court competition in Chicago with my team. I’ve been the faculty advisor for the Jessup team at Alabama for the past five years. During that time, my team has competed in Miami, Houston, and Chicago, as well as in the international rounds in D.C. I’ve gone with my team every year to each one of these venues. So I’ve seen a lot of the Jessup process, in a number of different venues in the U.S., and I’ve put in A LOT of my own time coaching my team and travelling with them. And here I mean A LOT of my own time. Many, many hours advising them as they research their memorials, then three to four per week oralist round practice sessions in the lead up to the regional.
I have noticed over the years that, at least at the regional locations we’ve been in, not many of my international law faculty colleagues have accompanied their teams as I have done. Some have, to be sure. But more often than not, their students are either there by themselves, or they are accompanied by a non-faculty team coach. And in my anecdotal conversations with students from other schools’ teams, it is usually the case that they have not been coached seriously by the international law faculty members at their law school. I now think that these faculty colleagues in international law at other schools have been much wiser than I have in this regard.
I have learned over the past five years through sorely frustrating experience that the Jessup competition is not in fact an international law moot court competition, notwithstanding this being stated in its name. This is, in fact, simply false advertising for the competition. In reality, Jessup is just another law student moot court competition in which style trumps substance, and where good used car salesmen typically come out on top. As such, the Jessup competition is simply not worth any serious investment of time by those of us who actually care about the substance, rigor and correctness of international legal analysis and argumentation. Frankly, sometimes I think my students could be citing to sources of Kryptonian law, and if they did so confidently and persuasively, they would be just as well off.
The clearest evidence for this conclusion is that if, counterfactually, the Jessup competition was in fact about international law, then it would be staffed by memorial and oralist round judges who themselves had a decent knowledge of international law. In my experience at all of the regional rounds in the U.S. at which my team has participated over the past five years, this has definitely not been the case…