Wednesday, 29 January 2020

'Twas the Motion before Christmas

I received an assignment to prepare materials for an Undertakings motion and set the oral argument for before the new year. I was in contact with the scheduling office for the first week of December trying to set a date. The court was closed from December 25th until the new year, which made the beginning of December even busier for the scheduling office.

"Just my luck... December 24th was the only free date available
for oral argument before the new year."

Tip 1: During the holiday season, book your motion date early.

It was a 10-minute walk from our office to the Toronto Civil Motions Court, where the Toronto Superior Court motions take place. The streets were almost empty as if the city had been evacuated and I didn’t get the memo. I arrived at the court 20 minutes early and verified that our matter was on the list. I entered the courtroom, signed in, and sat in the back row to review the written motion.

Tip 2: Arrive early in case your matter is not on the list.

At exactly 10:00 AM, we heard a knock on the door. The clerk opened the door and everyone in the room stood up. The Master entered the courtroom. Everyone bowed to the Master. The Master sat down. Then, everyone else in the courtroom sat down. The clerk said, “court is now session”. I suddenly felt butterflies in my stomach… I guess you could call it motion sickness.

Our matter was 6th on the list, which meant that I had the opportunity to observe other matters being heard before mine and learn what the Master’s “style” was. The first matter was argued by an articling student. The Master asked him what Rule he was relying on from the Rules of Civil Procedure. The articling student had it memorized, which gave the Master a big smile, and he chuckled. The Master said he was testing him because he’s an articling student.

Tip 3: Know your Rules of Civil Procedure.

Knowing that the Master could test me on my Rules, I quickly double-checked the Rules that I was relying on for the motion that I was arguing.

Tip 4: Watch the matters before you to see the types of questions the Master may ask.

The Master called for our matter. I stood up and went up to the podium. There was something thrilling about standing behind the podium, prepared to defend my case and be challenged about it. It also felt familiar and comfortable. Perhaps my law school mooting experiences actually help me in real life. Shocker. I stood waiting for the Master to finish writing from the prior matter. Then, he looked up at me. It was my turn.

During my motion preparation, I drafted a script that outlined my argument, making sure I brought up the relevant facts. However, I ended up making my submissions without looking at my script because I was asked questions by the Master. Since I had reviewed the written motion a number of times, I was able to quickly come up with a counter-argument.

Tip 4: Know your material.

After I requested costs, the Master took about one minute to write the endorsement. That one minute felt like twenty! Then, he signed our Order. We got what we needed. A Christmas miracle, indeed.

Arguing your first motion may seem daunting at first, but it can be an exciting and enjoyable experience. The key is preparation. Since my first motion, I’ve argued four more motions and have felt more comfortable and excited to attend every time. The motion records have become quicker to draft, it’s almost second nature. Having argued a motion, I appreciate the significance of what I’m including. I look forward to the motions that the future will bring for me… but hopefully not on Christmas Eve.
by Anisha B.