When it comes to a law school experience, it’s hard to beat arguing a case in front of a Minnesota Supreme Court justice. Last month students from William Mitchell and the University of Minnesota faced off in a moot court case in front of Justice Paul Anderson and a team of law professors and senior business executives in the Minnesota Supreme Court’s courtroom.
The argument was the final exam for students in Professor Chang Wang’s Chinese law course, and centered on the case of prominent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was detained by the Chinese government and accused of tax evasion. It was an extremely complex case of constitutional, criminal, and administrative law. Justice Anderson was joined by a number of other “justices” for the case, including Mitchell professors Jay Erstling and Jim Hilbert and Thomson Reuters senior executives Rick King and Tom Leighton.
“It was a wonderful, potentially once-in-a-lifetime experience for our students,” says Hilbert. “These are exactly the types of experiences we pride ourselves on at Mitchell. Kudos to Professor Wang and his terrific cast of justices.”
In the two-day competition, 47 students from both schools competed in teams. On the first day, U of M teams represented Ai Weiwei with Mitchell teams representing the Chinese government. The second day, the two schools switched sides.
“The mock trial was both exhilarating and nerve wracking,” says Jocelyn Varghese 2L. “It really reflected the ambiguousness and complexity of international law. And after the trial the panel of judges gave constructive criticism that I’ll always remember and hopefully implement in practice.”
Varghese, who hopes to go into international law, will be in Beijing this summer to help create and test a study abroad program between Mitchell and the China University of Political Science and Law.
“It was an amazing experience to have presiding judges like Justice Anderson, Rick King, a leader in the national technology community, and Alexander Morawa, an international expert in comparative constitutional law,” says Jessi Rajtar, who is graduating this spring. “Not only did the presiding judges have extreme amounts of experience, they also asked poignant, thoughtful questions that forced the oralists to have a good understanding of Chinese law. “
Professor Chang Wang is chief research and academic officer at Thomson Reuters and an Associate Professor of Law at China University of Political Science and Law. The China law moot court competition he organized was the first ever inter-collegiate moot court competition in the United States on Chinese law. Plans are already in the works for next year’s case and competition, which will expand to four law schools.