Dogged debate opens Osgoode’s renovated Moot Court


Above: Allan Hutchinson, Colleen Hanycz, Peter Hogg, Janine Benedet, Rachel Buhler and Mark Labenski celebrate the re-opening of Osgoode’s Moot Court

To the sounds of laughter and pop music piped in through a new high-tech sound system, Osgoode students broke in the newly renovated Moot Court Wednesday with the first “hearing” since completion of the $1.3 million project.

moot court

The 14-week refit, which was designed by Taylor Smyth Architects, involved a total gutting of the 5,152-square-foot hall, above. New features include an enlarged stage area with full-width audio-visual screen, new seating, storage areas, lighting and, to the obvious approval of the women in the audience, new women’s washrooms on the lower level.

The space, which is Osgoode’s main venue for school functions, can also now be split into separate classrooms, each with instructor’s presentation consoles. Seating areas are equipped with ports for students’ laptop computers and the main room is equipped for digital streaming of lectures.

The decor includes a stainless steel sculpture of the Osgoode crest, oak millwork and a feature specifically mandated by Osgoode Dean Patrick Monahan: red and white banners commemorating Osgoode moot champions from the past 10 years. As part of the ceremonies , alumnae Leora Shemesh (LLB ’00) and Jonathan Hood (LLB ’04), members of past winning teams, unfurled the banners along with current students.

ribbon cuttingThe moot between faculty and student teams followed remarks and a ceremonial ribbon-cutting by Monahan, far left, dubbed the “Pat Sajack of law deans” by Osgoode Associate Dean Allan Hutchinson, and York Vice-President, Finance & Administration Gary Brewer, left. Opposing counsels squared off in a debate over recently enacted legislation banning pit bulls in Ontario. The contest pitted Hutchinson and Professor Colleen Hanycz, Osgoode assistant dean (first year), against third-year students Rachel Buhler and Mark Labenski.

Hutchinson launched his assault on what he called “egregious legislation” by pointing out he was speaking not on behalf of pit bull owners but on behalf of the dogs themselves, who, he argued, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

“Justice” Peter Hogg, former Osgoode dean and now scholar in residence at Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP, questioned Hutchinson’s strategy and his attempt to draw an analogy between woman and animals. Hutchinson also drew a warning query over an assertion about trees, which, he argued, “have standing.” Hutchinson’s most telling point, however, was that if the Supreme Court of Canada could extend the definition of “everyone” to “soulless, bloodless corporations” it was a “small step forward to say that pit bulls are worthy of such recognition.”

With tongue firmly in cheek, Hanycz slammed the law banning pit bulls as “ill-founded, misguided, knee-jerk legislation” that targets the wrong harm. In making her case, Hanycz pointed out that more injuries are caused by golden retrievers and collies than pit bulls, which ranked 14th on a list of dangerous items compiled by insurance researchers. Hanycz also noted that injuries caused by pit bulls occurred less often than those caused by curling irons, electric can openers and espresso machines, which, she said, are “clearly a menance.”

Right: Buhler and Labenski celebrate victory

“Learned counsel” Buhler opened her submission by describing the injuries pit bulls have caused to “postmen, women and children alike”, and characterized the infamous terriers as “ticking time bombs.” When “Justice” Hogg noted the legislation was perhaps flawed because it did not include the cited dangerous household appliances, Buhler referred to a well-known case from Oz (Dorothy v Witch), saying, “we don’t let people keep lions and tigers and bears, oh my.”

“Counsel” Labenski challenged the idea that animals are persons by pointing out that extending human rights to cows would put fast food hamburger corporations out of business. He also noted that a ban on all dangerous animals was impractical since “it would mean a ban on humans as well.”

“Justice” Janine Benedet, Chair of the Mooting Program and Hogg’s partner on the bench, thanked the teams for their “illuminating and provocative submissions” and promptly deferred the court’s decision to the audience, which cast votes using some of the new instructional technology installed during the renovation. To no one’s surprise, the student team was voted the winner by a two-thirds majority and Hutchinson was voted best oralist. The fun ended with a cake reception in Osgoode’s main foyer.

moot voting

Left: From left, Tracey Woo, votes for moot champions with fellow Osgoode third-year students Sumbul Ali and Al McNish.

Below: Students unfurl championship banners






banner unfurling









Below: Stage area of new Moot Court


moot stage