"Milords, my name is Brian Raft, and I shall be presenting the contract formation issue. My learned friend, Scott Mangum, will present the estoppel issue. My learned friends, James Farrant and Jacqueline Lean, appear for Respondent."
Peter Hughes, Q.C., flanked by federal district court judge Ronald Whyte and California Court of Appeal Justice Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian, leaned forward to listen.
This scene, though set in England’s House of Lords, took place at the September meeting of the Santa Clara Inn (Inn #12). Mr. Peter Hughes, Q.C., Master of the Bench of Gray’s Inn, and four young barristers also from Gray’s Inn, visited the Santa Clara Inn to "moot" before the Inn.
Gray’s Inn is one of the four Inns of Court to which all English barristers must belong. The Inn has ancient roots-it is mentioned in Shakespeare, although its history spans several centuries before the Bard set quill to parchment. In fact, Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors enjoyed its first performance at Gray’s Inn in 1594.
The Gray’s Inn mooters had earned their berths on the trip by displaying distinguished advocacy skills at Gray’s Inn’s own moots.
At the invitation of Gray’s Inn, both of Santa Clara’s mooters had mooted at Gray’s Inn during the previous summer. Consequently, they were very familiar with the style and mode of English mooting.
In addition to embracing an opportunity to extend hospitality to a sister Inn in England, the moot afforded Inn members an opportunity to improve their own advocacy by contrasting American and English styles.
English judges are generally chosen from the most skilled barristers, and one immediately senses the reciprocal respect that flows from barrister to bench and bench to barrister. Within the conventions of address, the tone is conversational, the style is graceful, and the posture is one of helpfulness to the bench. When, for example, the court corrects a barrister’s error of fact or law, the likely response is, "I am grateful, Milord." Apposing counsel is always "My Learned Friend." As Master Hughes remarked, the best advocacy helps the bench work through a difficult problem.
The Inns also feed their barristers and judges. Because barristers and judges lunch and dine at their Inns, one may be seated with opposing counsel or with the judge before whom one appears. This system is a powerful incentive to civility and ethics. In a real sense, news of an incivility or sharp practice will arrive at the lunch table before the offending advocate. A good reputation may not assure a prosperous practice, but a poor one assures failure.
Unlike our Supreme Court, members of the House of Lords ordinarily do not wear gowns and wigs. They also sit in panels of 5 rather than en banc. Perhaps reflecting the parallel, political role of the House of Lords, judges in the House of Lords deliver "speeches"
rather than opinions. It should be noted that very soon England will abandon the House of Lords in favor of a "Supreme Court." Details of how it will operate are yet to be decided.
The mooters argued a contracts case. The moot problem gave an opportunity to explore some very significant differences between the English and the American approach to promissory estoppel.
For many centuries moots have been part of the legal training offered by English Inns to young Barristers. One consequence is that at the conclusion of a moot the presiding judge decides the case on the merits.
Gray’s Inn preserves these moot judgments in the Inn’s records and publishes them in the Inn’s magazine. Following this practice, Master Hughes delivered the House of Lord’s judgment at the close of argument.
Following the judgment, all adjourned to dine with the Inn, and Master Hughes favored the Inn with a short reflection on some of the similarities between our two systems of training and justice. Justice Bamattre-Manoukian, president of the William A. Ingram Inn, expressed the gratitude of the Inn for their English cousins’ visit, and all looked forward to continuing the biennial tradition (now spanning over 16 years) of moots with Gray’s Inn.
Left to Right: Brian Raft (Santa Clara), Frank Magnum (Santa Clara), Edward Franklin (Gray’s Inn) Emma Price (Gray’s Inn), Christine Hughes and Master Peter Hughes, Q.C. (Gray’s Inn), James Farrant (Gray’s Inn) and Jacqueline Lean (Gray’s Inn)