UBC law students use Twitter to argue legal appeal

The average tweet usually includes references to foods consumed, maladies, or countdowns to important dates. They are not, however, outlets in which the fate of a potential criminal can be argued. Not usually, anyways; but at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Law, students hope to change the way the goings-on of trials typically run with a revolutionary event.

Two University of British Columbia students in the Faculty of Law, Hamish Stewart and Matthew Kalkman, spent countless hours preparing themselves and their written legal arguments before the event for something the world has never seen before: a Twitter moot.

Using Twitter, UBC’s Faculty of Law students were the first aspiring lawyers in history to take part in a simulated legal battle via Twitter, available for the whole world to see. On Feb. 21 at 10am PST, the Twitter moot happened, and made history as the first mock-court appeal to be argued over Twitter, everyone’s favorite social media network that allows you to express their innermost thoughts in 140 words or less.

By using the popular social media platform, the UBC Law students hope they will push the limits of the way legal cases can be argued in the future, as the world continually develops new ways to communicate.

“This is a great opportunity for legal professionals to explore how the law can engage with new technology,” says Stewart, explaining why he believes the event is an important experience for UBC Law students. “In particular, this is a great opportunity to explore important issues in environmental law and to ensure that environmental law continues to lead the profession on social media.”

The Twitter moot was presided over by a panel of three judges, William Deverell, Omar HaRedeye, and Kathleen Mahoney, and was organized by West Coast Environmental Law. Kalkman hopes his and other student’s participation has helped to show support for the Canadian Law firm.

“I believe that this is not only a chance to make legal and social media history, but is also a positive idea that can help increase awareness of environmental issues and the great work of West Coast Environmental Law using social media,” says Kalkman. The law firm of Miller Thomson, a law firm that spans across Canada, sponsored the UBC team, providing additional support.

West Coast Environmental Law is a non-profit environmental law and public interest organization. Based in Vancouver, West Coast Environmental Law claims they “believe in a just and sustainable society where citizens are empowered to protect the environment and environmental protection is enshrined in law.”

The appeal that was argued was West Moberly First Nations v. British Columbia. This moot discussed issues related to the well-being of an endangered caribou herd that is currently being threatened by coal mining and ongoing industrial development in the area.

Stewart and Kalkman represented the Province of Alberta. They argued that the First Nation’s right to hunt should not be extended in order to protect the threatened herd of the caribou, and that the West Moberly may hunt wherever they please, according to Treaty rules.

It’s not just UBC that was involved in the Twitter Moot: law students Stewart and Kalkman did battle with law teams from the Universities of Victoria, Dalhousie, Ottawa, and York. The moot ended on the same day it began, with team #Osgoode (York University) departing Twitter as the victorious party.

By using the hashtag “#twtmoot”, or following the @Twtmoot Twitter account, anyone who is interested can keep abreast of any future events or updates from the group.

//Victoria Fawkes, staff writer

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