An Afternoon with James: The Arena

Anyone that has ever sat through a moot can attest that it is a rite of passage in law school. To be able to endure the disorienting thickness of the heat, taste the saltiness on your lips whilst fending yourself from the burying punches from the bench, AND  be able to walk away with little humiliation and disgrace, is a winner’s tale. I like few others, can at least say that moot was a thrilling experience overall. I believe it was a similar experience to a memorable moot I sat on a few weeks ago.

The usual tension graced us with it’s presence as the court marshal signaled for everyone to stand in readiness for the judges. Her Ladyship Justice Nyirongo came in first and settled down at the centre with her arms folded across her chest. Her eyes bored into the room sending a clear reminder that she tolerates no nonsense in her court. Following closely behind was the Her Ladyship Justice Mwauluka with her whimsical charm. When is became apparent that His Lordship Dr Mulenga would be absent from the proceedings, there was a mixture of sadness and joy as some mouths turned up whilst others down.

The moot began as per routine with the appellant’s lead counsel placing their name on record as well as introducing other counsel before the bench. It was obvious that she was prepared and had a thorough understanding of the law of evidence.  She lunged and ducked successfully to most of the questions posed (I must state that  only the judges have the final say as to the weight of her arguments). Her two colleagues equally endeavored to represent their client but they had to put up more of a fight and attracted many questions from the bench. To avoid being cited for contempt of court, it will suffice to say that despite being slammed into a wall, they gathered themselves and pushed back with enough strength to escape with their dignity still intact.

The respondent’s lead counsel is a friend of mine and I knew that she would kill it even though her mock preparations were a disaster! She began on a high altitude; advancing steadily with her armour in tow. Her words waltzed around the room for a while and the crowd listened intently enjoying the pace, when suddenly she launched herself onto the appellants and shredded their major contention. She clawed her way through each statement digging deeper with an increased fury and passion. The audience was hypnotized. It is a rarity when one does not attract questions from the the honorable bench. Elina is one such rarity. The crowd erupted as the gladiator bowed deeply and it took a while before the calm was restored.

When it was second counsel’s turn, the stellar performance was expected and  he did not disappoint. A Zambian-American lilt erupted from his throat and pierced the silence in the room. Much like his fellow counsel, he stuck the appellant’s notion from all angles-each time closing them off into a tight corner. The judges showered him with questions-one after another but to no avail. He side-stepped, lurched and absorbed each one tactically. Finally, he delivered a decisive blow. Wayne adjusted his jacket defiantly signifying the end of the engagement.

Third counsel for the respondent’s,  Victor, was the last to make submissions. He had so much sweat trickling down the contours of his face that the bench quickly called for the court martial to get him a second bottle of water. Parched, he emptied them before he could even speak. He stumbled in the beginning, casting his words carelessly and failing to hit the mark. It could have been nerves as his breathing was laboured. I must confess that  it is unclear what happened as I was lost in my own thoughts. The next I came around, he had meta-morphed from a cowering mouse to a roaring lion. His eyes shone with intensity as  he wedged in between the the gaps left by preceding counsel. He angled his argument to to whip off the opposers’ argument. Inch by inch, it crumbled before the appellant’s eyes. When I think about it, Victor sounded like Harvey Specter from Suits. Others would argue that he was actually better than Harvey, my self included! With a shattering finish, he exhaled deeply. Before he could beg to move, the audience thundered.

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