Analyzing a moot court problem and identifying the legal issues is one of the most critical first steps in preparing for a moot competition. It lays the foundation for strong legal arguments and effective advocacy. This process requires careful reading, issue-spotting, and framing skills. Here is a step-by-step guide:
How to do it?
a. Read the Problem
i. Primary Reading
- Read with a blank mind – like reading a story: Initially read through the moot problem from start to finish, almost as if reading a story. Avoid analyzing or making judgments. Simply comprehend the sequence of events.
- Read like a layman – as if you don’t know the law: Next, read through again, this time from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with law. Focus on grasping the literal meaning without interpreting legal implications.
- Try to memorize each line and events listed with timeline: Go through the problem once more, consciously memorizing the key details – parties involved, timeline, events, statements, evidence etc. Understanding the case facts is crucial.
- Avoid making arguments in mind while reading: As far as possible, read without forming opinions or arguments. The objective is neutral comprehension.
ii. Secondary Reading
- Read the same way at least 4 times: To deeply imprint the details, read the problem multiple times attentively in the manner described above – blank mind, layman perspective, memorizing, neutrality. Repetition builds familiarity.
- Write the problem while reading: An effective technique is to hand write the problem verbatim while reading it carefully at least once. This adds an element of actively processing the information instead of passive reading.
iii. After reading, instantly draft the Statement of Facts: With the details fresh, immediately prepare a factual summary covering the parties, events in chronological order, evidence etc. This Statement of Facts will provide the foundation for analysis.
b. Analyze it
i. Find and List Down all Relevant Statutes: Scrutinize the details and timeline of events. Identify the applicable laws based on the cause of action. List out the specific legislation and provisions that are relevant.
ii. Read all the Listed Relevant Provisions: Retrieve and thoroughly read every provision of law identified to understand the legal requirements and tests to establish a cause of action.
c. Identify Issues and Divide them into sub-issues: The next crucial step is spotting the legal issues i.e. debatable points involving application of law. Examine from both parties’ standpoints. Also formulate sub-issues by breaking down main issues into legal elements.
d. Follow IRAC Method for Framing, Research and Drafting each Issue:
i. I – Issues:
- How to Identify Issues?
a. Find the Break-Even Points:
i. Burden and Standard of Proof: The first pivot is which party carries the burden of proof and the applicable standard – balance of probabilities or beyond reasonable doubt. Identify legal issues on basis of burden.
ii. Framing of Issues: Also analyze the problem from the angle of how issues would be framed formally before a court of law. Pose substantive propositions of fact/law requiring determination. Generally issues like Maintainability, Commission of a Violation of Law / Crime etc., Procedural Deficiency, etc. are framed.
b. Where a dispute arises – Spot the Issues: Closely evaluate every stage of events, facts, evidence, and examine where disagreements on application of law may potentially arise between parties. These indicate legal issues requiring resolution.
- How to Make Sub-Issues?
a. Break them down into smaller issues using: Take the major legal issues and break them down into more specific, constituent issues on basis of essential elements, defenses and exceptions.
b. Types of Sub-Issues:
i. Essential Sub-Issues: These relate to establishing essential legal ingredients central to cause of action e.g. negligence requires proving duty, breach and causation. Frame sub-issues examining existence or non-existence of each ingredient.
ii. Defensive/Counter-Defensive Sub-Issues: These arise from defenses, exceptions and counter-claims available in law. E.g. immunity, contributory negligence etc.
iii. Procedural Sub-Issues: Issues questioning procedural compliance/deficiencies vis-a-vis limitation period, jurisdiction, cause of action etc fall under this category.
iv. Fact-Based Sub-Issues: These involve debating factual aspects – evidentiary standards, facts contested, varying interpretations of statements, witness credibility etc.
- Example Case Problem:
A was involuntarily drugged by D, resulting in him negligently omitting to feed his niece B who died of starvation. B’s father C sues A for negligence.
Major Legal Issue: Whether A committed the offence of death by negligence?
i. Whether legal duty existed between A and B? (Essential issue testing ingredients of negligence)
ii. If so, whether A acted negligently i.e. failed to adhere to standard of care? (Essential issue)
iii. Whether A’s ommission only was the reason for injury suffered by B? (Essential Issue)
iv. Whether drugged condition gives A immunity from liability for negligence? (Defense issue)
Thus, by delving into the facts, timeline and law, moot court problems can be systematically analyzed to developing a legal framework for arguments and submissions.