History Made in Twitter Moot

(Pictured above: UVIC Law TweetMooters Matthew Nefstead and Jenn Cameron work under the glare of CTV’s camera.  Image credit: Kim Nayyer/University of Victoria’s Diana M. Priestly Law Library)

History has been made. The first Twitt­er Moot Court was officially brought to a close at 12:30p.m. (PST) yesterday following an hour of furious legal tweeting, hash tagging, and @mentioning. Although we might be decades away from actual cases being tried in the twittersphere, yesterday’s moot provided some insight into how social media can interface with classic legal debate.

The Twitter Moot commenced with submissions from two Skunkworks sponsored tweeters, Jenn Cameron and Mathew Nefstead, representing the University of Victoria. Cameron and Nefstead argued on behalf of the Province of British Columbia in the environmental case West Moberly First Nations v. British Columbia.  Cameron started her submissions by indicating that she would “briefly” state the facts of the case. This was no understatement. Limited to 140 characters or less, Cameron and all other participants were forced to find creative ways to effectively lay out the points at issue.   

The tweeters, however, had clearly planned ahead. Certain tactics were adopted that allowed for the formalities of the courtroom to be brought to the world of social media. The three Twitter Moot judges, which included University of Calgary Law professor Kathleen Mahoney, lawyer-turned novelist William Deverell, and legal social media guru Omar Ha-Redeye, were content to be referred to as ML rather than My Lord. Likewise, the participants modified the formal designation of opposing counsel as “my Learned Friend” and adapted the much simpler LF.

Conversely, the informal atmosphere and peculiar affectations of twitter invariably played a part in the way the case was discussed.  Judge Omar Ha-Redeye began proceedings with the tweet, “Let’s get down,” which is an effective and lexically economical way to begin a Twitter Moot, but unlikely to catch on in the Supreme Court of Canada. At one point, Mathew Kalkman (tweeting for Team UBC and representing the Province of Alberta in the moot), argued his side by stating that an alternative interpretation of the discussed case would constitute a “hashtag fail.” Kalkman, the most comedic advocate on the day, also managed to include tweets referencing the Vic Toews/Vikileaks story, his own book on liberalism, blatant (and funny) pandering to a couple of the judges, and a great in-character rant all within his team’s 10-minute time allotment.

Despite the fun that was had, the participants also effectively and seriously argued the case at hand.  Nikki Peterson from Team Osgoode included a great Google Map to showcase how close the First Nation reserve lands were to various major developments impacting the area.  At times, several concurrent tweets were required to convey a single argument and a veritable storm of tweets ensued. The efforts were clearly appreciated by the Twitter community as the hashtag #twtmoot became a trending topic in Canada at around 11:30a.m. PST.

Following much deliberation it was decided that the team from Osgoode School of Law, representing the West Moberly First Nations, had earned the top prize. However, Skunkworks is proud to announce that the team from University of Victoria won the People’s Choice award by garnering the most online votes in a West Coast Environmental Law poll asking which Twitter Moot team most effectively argued their case.

All things considered, it was a fun day in legal education and an interesting exploration into the increasingly ubiquitous world of social media.  Skunkworks congratulates and appreciates the efforts of all participants and would like to extend particular thanks to the folks at West Coast Environmental Law who conceived and organized the event. Kudos on a job well done.  

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