Law

Mooting about real life

Just completed a moot competition yesterday. Mooting’s one of those things law students do during their uni years, but what was really interesting about this particular moot wasn’t so much the process itself, but the fact that, for the first time, I could see the real life implications or at least relevance of what we were doing.

This was a moot with a moot problem which wasn’t fictional but in fact a real case, based on real facts that actually happened in real life, in proceedings following from an official judgment by an active court, and even judged ultimately by one fo the leading barristers to the case. And if the reality of the case hadn’t been established yet, the case was one which could be found online, with facebook pages campaign for both parties, and one could even identify the family members of the parties to the case. As I later discovered, the same application is likely to be submitted in the foreseeable future, which implies that the case might be argued before a real court, potentially seeing some of the arguments being run many times better.

Mooting, Debating, Model United Nations and all those other exercises we do during our time in academia often appear to have little to no value. They happen, they finish, (often someone wins and others lose), and then we all go home. That’s that.

So I guess I’m thankful for this weeks moot, not because in process or substance it was that different from other moots, but because it was particularly refreshing in how it narrowed the gap between the academic simulation and real life!

Cue entirely unrelated photo

A photo of an entirely different mooting event I was in, but since I haven’t posted this before, and given its tangential relevance 😀 (Click for details of the photo)

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Hong Kong attempts sham elections

A lot of people confuse Hong Kong’s political system with that of China’s, assuming that Hong Kong is just another reclusive, facebook-less, Chinese city. Indeed, we like to think of ourselves as otherwise, but at the current rate, Hong Kong might just well turn into just another undemocratic Chinese city. I’m referring to of course, the HK Government’s new plans to scrap Legislative Council by-elections and replace them with some odd system whereby the next-best-placed candidate in the original elections would automatically be offered empty seats, thereby doing away with the need to hold by-elections.

The Government hasn’t even attempted to think of an illogical excuse for this move, happily admitting that such a move is in response to the so called ‘de-facto referendum’ triggered in January last year after five Civic Party and League of Social Democrats lawmakers resigned. At the time, most other main political parties did not put up candidates, and all five were voted back into office. The turnout was just 17.1 per cent and the government said the by-election, which cost HK$126 million, had been unnecessary, thus warranting it’s newest proposal.
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Legco By-elections – A comprehensive rebuttal

A well written article in the SCMP from 7 June 2011 that effectively destroys the government’s logic for changing the legco by-election rules.

Baffled by an empty seat

The government’s proposals for new ways of conducting by-elections are ill-considered and may well lead to more confusion, say analysts

The government’s controversial proposal to fill midterm vacancies in the Legislative Council by installing the next-best-placed candidate would serve the intended purpose: preventing lawmakers from claiming a by-election to be a referendum.

But it may lead to some unintended consequences, and even tricky scenarios that officials may not have thought through.

The proposal arose because, in January last year, five Civic Party and League of Social Democrats lawmakers resigned, triggering a by-election they hoped would be a de facto referendum on political reform. But the other main political parties did not put up candidates, and all five were voted back into office last May. Turnout was just 17.1 per cent and the government said the by-election, which cost HK$126 million, had been unnecessary.

Nevertheless, the government’s proposed solution is causing even some allied lawmakers to baulk.
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Sued by my own parents

Taking care of parents has long been a ‘moral’ responsibility above anything else. It’s not something that one usually attributes a legal commitment towards. However, in the land of the dragon, it may soon be the case that your elderly parent has the legal right to sue you for not visiting them often enough.

According to an SCMP article, a draft amendment of the 1996 ‘Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly’ is reported to include such a provision. It should be noted that this provision is not yet in effect nor indeed guaranteed to become law at any point in the future. SCMP goes on to say

The revision would for the first time provide a legal framework for the elderly to sue their children for failing to visit them, Wu Ming , deputy department head in the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said yesterday.

The Legal Evening News quoted Wu as saying the amendment would contain a new provision on spiritual support for the elderly in which “family members should not ignore and isolate the elderly, and they should come often to visit the elderly if they do not live under the same roof”.

While I understand the concept behind such a law, I fail to see how it will have any practical benefit. Indeed, if a child fails to visit their parents regularly, suing them is unlikely to make them any more willing. Quite the contrary, it would appear that someone being sued would bear resentment towards their parents. Even if they are forced to cover their parents cost of living, they are unlikely to have a sudden change of heart and visit their parents regularly out of love. If anything, it becomes just another mundane legal duty rather than a moral one.

The law might have good intentions, but it isn’t likely to improve anything.

A wise owl: Judge Wesley E. Brown (Age – 103)

When I first read the title of this New York Time feature, I couldn’t believe what it was that I was reading. An federal judge in the US, still in court and hearing cases at the ripe age of 103. He even pokes fun at his own age by saying “At this age, I’m not even buying green bananas.” He needs an oxygen tube during hearings and even reminds lawyers that he might not live to see the cases completed. And yet, day in day out, Judge Brown remains in court as a federal judge. Indeed, if he survives, he will be the oldest practicing federal judge in the history of the United States in less than a year.

His dedication and persistance is stunning. It really shows that when you do something meaningful and something that you love, you’ll eventually do it for as long as you can. That love and committment to something you believe in is a valuable lesson we can all learn from Judge Brown.

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Chinese to film Interrogations

[tweetmeme source=”@paullaucm” only_single=false] China has recently announced it will start the practice of filming interrogations. Sadly, this will occur on the smallest of scales. Only 5 Beijing prisons will have such recordings although the prison bureau was smart enough to prohibit police for interrogating or conversing with prisoners in areas not covered by surveillance cameras.

It was aid to be aimed at ‘deterring illegal treatment of prisoners as well as attempts by prisoners to frame police’. Given China’s historical record, I suspect it will be used for the later rather than the former. Indeed, given China’s record, you might suspect that this new rule might not even be followed.

Nevertheless, the fact that this new practice has been introduced is a good step, an indication that at least officially, the government agrees interrogations should not be violent. Lets now hope that it works; at the end of the day, changes have to come from within not from the outside.

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