Advice to Jessup Students

(September 2016)

I. Basic Stance for the Jessup Moot Court Competition

1. The most important aspect in the participation of Jessup is to enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy the whole process of preparation and the national rounds of competition, you will not do a good job. In the rounds, enjoy the 20 minutes or so when each of you gives the oral presentation. That is when you “shine,” which you should fully enjoy. It is a rare occasion for a young student of early twenties to be the focus of attention among the highly educated audience including some of the noted judges and law professors.

2. While you participate in the Jessup in your individual capacity, you are also fighting for your university, your Alma Mater, which is part of your essential identity.

3. Jessup competition is teamwork. Not only the agents but also the researchers in the team have their satisfying moments when your memorials are duly evaluated and when you give appropriate instructions to your colleagues toward successful pleadings. The collegiate spirit and friendship you acquire through working together for six months or so will be your tremendous asset for your entire life.

4. In order to have the shining moments, you have to work very, very hard. You will certainly be rewarded by your hard work. However, Jessup is just a game. Enjoy the game. It is like the Olympic Games, which is important to “participate”. This is an educational exercise and not a legal battle in the real world, where life and death, as well as property and honor, are at stake. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes you make will be a great asset for your future life. I wish you a success, but failure is also a great educational experience, which you will find extremely precious in your future endeavors.

5. Nonetheless, Jessup is a training ground for becoming a real lawyer. You should behave like a professional, responsible lawyer. Never be late for the deadlines. It was a disgrace that your university teams in the past were late in submitting their written memorials to China Jessup, which led to penalties. Analyze why the delay occurred in the past so that you will not repeat the same mistake. Complete the manuscripts two days before the deadline, and submit them one day earlier before the deadline. Check your memorials over and over again so that there will be no careless mistakes and typos. Check the hard copy of your memorials carefully. Due to the mismatch of your computer and printer, sometimes the hard copy does not precisely reflect your paper in the electronic version. This is important, because the memorials are graded by the hard copies.

6. In the oral proceedings, agents should not be reading their notes. They should speak to the judges without relying on their papers. Always keep eye contacts with all the judges on the bench. Judges can ask any questions and may sometimes ask seemingly “silly” questions on purpose in order to see how the agents react to them (One judge [from Spain] asked an agent, “According to the Compromis, the army general of the invading forces is a woman. Don’t you think it is rather unnatural that a woman serves as an army general?” Another judge asked to a female agent, “Why don’t you wear a skirt instead of pants?”) In the courtroom, judges have absolute power and authority. You should respond to the judges with all the courtesy and respect. Never offend the judges. Your criticisms addressed to your opponents should also be respectful. (In 2015 China Jessup, an agent of the Respondent said, “the Applicant is trying to mislead the Court by saying that …” One of the judges (from Australia) said that such a remark would be considered as “contempt of the Court” in her country.)

7. In the 2014 and 2015 competitions, while five students were selected as members of the team, some students were not unfortunately selected. I was extremely touched by the students who had not been selected. They remained in the Jessup class until the end, and continued to support the team. This demonstrates the finest quality of the students of this university, by which I was deeply impressed.

8. In Jessup, you are evaluated not only of your professional advocacy skill to express yourself in English and your understanding of international law but also of your maturity as a person. A lawyer needs to be a person of great sense of humor, since he or she is often required to handle horrible human miseries. You should always be calm and disciplined, but you should always be relaxed and have some room for humor and smile. If you look tense or nervous, you are likely to lose. As I said, enjoy the game, then you will start shining and you will ultimately win!

9. Ideally, each of the team members should be capable of pleading all the points of claim and both for the Applicant and the Respondent. This will make your arguments much stronger. The strong teams often have only two oralists covering all points for both sides, with the other three members support the oralists as researchers. Since it is the cruel reality that the ability to speak in English is crucial in Jessup, this may be the option that your team may consider.

10. Suggested readings:
(1) 村瀬信也『国際立法―国際法的法源論』(秦一禾訳)中国人民公安大学出版社、2012年 (参照:陳一峰「国際造法問題的理論再造:評・村瀬信也『国際立法—国際法的法源論』」中国社会科学院国際法研究所『国際法研究』(2014.01) pp.122-128)
(2) S. Murase, International Law:An Integrative Perspective on Transboundary Issues, Sophia University Press, 2011.
(3) For the decisions of the International Court of Justice, see
(4) For Documents of the UN International Law Commission, see:

II. Points of Attention

1. You should read the Compromis very carefully and have a complete and thorough understanding of the relevant facts and their legal implications. You need to find out the hidden intentions of the drafters of the Compromis behind the seemingly non-problematic descriptions of fact and law. There are sometimes passages that even the drafters did not notice but that can be important issues for pleadings such as “differences” (instead of “disputes”) and “general international law” (instead of customary international law).

2. In the oral pleadings, you are graded on two aspects: (1) knowledge of international law, and (2) advocacy skill. Many of the judges of China Jessup are lawyers coming from the United States. They tend to pose questions more on facts rather than law (international law). This is because their legal system is based on the jury system in which lawyers need to persuade the jury composed of non-lawyers with regard to the relevant facts. This is entirely different from the actual ICJ, which normally concentrates on the issues of interpretation of international law rather than facts (though, in recent years, ICJ has come to shed light on the relevant facts to some extent; eg. 2014 Whaling case).

3. As always, most of the questions asked by judges are related to four branches of international law: (1) Sources of international law (Article 38 of the ICJ Statute), (2) Interpretation of treaties (Article 31-33 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, VCLT), (3) Identification of customary international law (ILC Draft Articles on the Identification of customary international law, See ILC Report, 2016), and (4) Law of State Responsibility (ILC Articles on State Responsibility, See Report of the ILC, 2001).

Please visit my blog post: Summaries of my novel, “Waiting for a Shooting Star”. It is a story in part about Jessup.

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