Clayton Utz Teams Up With Castan Centre For Inaugural Human Rights Debate

Melbourne, 4 September 2007: LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – After two weeks of intense competition, a team of law students from Monash University has emerged as the winner of the inaugural Victorian Charter of Human Rights Mooting Competition organised by the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law[1] and sponsored by national law firm Clayton Utz.

The winning team – Jess O’Brien, Kaja Strzalka and Lucinda Bradlow – from Monash University went head to head with the Victoria University team of Grant Schubert and Damian Clancy in the final round of the competition held at the Court of Appeal last Friday evening. It was the culmination of two weeks of competition which saw boardrooms at Clayton Utz’ Melbourne office transformed into courtrooms as the state’s top law students tackled the topic of human rights law.

The final proved to be a battle of compelling argument between the plaintiff (Victoria) and the defendant (Monash), presided over by The Honourable Justice Maxwell, President of the Court of Appeal, Judge Tony Howard of the County Court and Dr Helen Szoke, CEO of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

All the finalists received support from the large group of family and friends who turned out to watch. Each team was rewarded for their efforts, receiving cash prizes of $3,000 and $1,000 respectively, donated by Clayton Utz.

The Castan Centre launched the competition to provide Victorian law students with an opportunity to explore the potential impact of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities on day-to-day legal practice. The Charter was introduced into law in late 2006 and will take full effect in 2008.

The students who took part in the competition represented five of Victoria’s law schools: Melbourne, Monash, Deakin, Victoria and La Trobe. The students were divided into teams consisting of a senior and junior counsel and in most cases an instructing solicitor. Each is a third year law student or above and has studied or is studying human rights law.

The students were judged on their oral presentations, written submissions, development of argument, and their ability to answer questions from the bench.

Deputy Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Paula Gerber, said she hoped the competition would contribute to a greater understanding of human rights law in Victoria. “The Charter is one of the most important pieces of legislation for Victoria. We hope that through an initiative such as this, we can go some way to ensuring that future generations of lawyers are fully conversant with the new laws.”

Clayton Utz partner Sally Sheppard, who took part in the judging, said the standard was very high. “The students have demonstrated their commitment and interest to a critical area of new law for Victoria, and from the outset of the competition I have been impressed by each team’s preparedness and understanding of the impacts of the Charter,” said Ms Sheppard.

Ms Sheppard has a particular interest in human rights law, and the impact of the Charter both on Government and businesses in the private sector.

Clayton Utz Melbourne managing partner Brad Vann said the firm was pleased to support the Castan Centre with such an initiative. “The Castan Centre is an important institution in the research and teaching of human rights law. We look forward to continuing our association.”

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