Written by: Thomas Nighswonger (T.D.V. Cicero)
Editor’s note: From this tournament report on, we will use a new style where we give a shorter summary of the tournament and then dive deeper into one of the motions at the tournament so that this may be used for training purposes, for example. The writer will propose one argument in favour and one against. We welcome everyone to leave their thoughts on the motion in the comments at the bottom of the page!
On the first weekend of February, the days were finally here: the first-ever Eindhoven Open. We knew the CA team was excellent, we knew the Eindhoven debating society, so we were all really excited for the tournament. And looking back at the tournament now, I think we can all agree that it was a big success and definitely deserves another edition next year.
Cicero went to the Eindhoven Open with a huge delegation: 5 teams, 4 judges, and two IAs. When we arrived in Eindhoven, I was surprised by the size of the building in which the tournament would be held. It was huge! We arrived and registered, and breakfast was already waiting for us. I think it was very nice to have the opportunity to have a small breakfast there before the rounds started. The breakfast (and then later also lunch) was very diverse so there was something for everybody. The only critique I really had was that there was no coffee whatsoever besides the vending machines. Especially after two or three rounds, a coffee would have been nice but that is critique is really marginal as I don’t want to shy away from saying this was a very well organized and run tournament.
The tournament itself was packed with participants from all over the world which was very nice. You could really feel the diversity within the participants. The motions were also quite diverse, though, in my opinion, one in-round without an infoslide would have been nice. The motions ranged from social activism, education to the judicial system. We even talked about the ECB (note here: not fun!). Besides debating, Chronos also offered us a social at their own bar. The most amazing thing about the social besides the location was the number of free drinks and that they had a tap machine where you could draft the beer yourself. That was really sweet and the social was really amazing. On day 2, the routine continued with one more in-round before the semis, the pro-am and the grand finale.
Infoslide: In a civil law system (like in the Netherlands, Germany and France), the law is primarily made by parliament. Judges apply and interpret it but generally try to keep as close to it as possible. In a common law system (like the UK and US), the law is primarily made by judges. They formulate generally applicable rules based on individual cases, which they base on what is common and what is perceived as just.Round 5 – Eindhoven Open
Motion: This House prefers a common law system over a civil law system.
For me as a law student, this is an excellent motion as I am familiar with both systems, so I knew beforehand what potential arguments to expect. I also think the motion is quite balanced, although closing teams might have a bit of a struggle finding a nice extension.
On the proposition side, the main arguments the teams brought up was that judges need to be independent of the rest of the political system. They should not be subject to public scrutiny or public opinion. In the common law system, the judges hold the position as the prime lawmaker, using a system of binding precedent. Judges can only fulfil these duties to the best of their abilities if it is ensured that they are completely independent. If they were not independent, they could not fulfil their roles to the best of their capabilities. Instead of shaping the law the best way they think, they would worry more about the popular opinion and the repercussions a ruling that would be deemed unfavourable would have. This might lead to rulings that are unfavourable for certain groups in society, e.g. minorities in the sense that they are less protected by the law. The crux is, the judges would not have come to that decision because it’s what they think is right, but because of the potential backlash from society. Thus, rather than making a “good” law, they obey to the popular opinion.
On the opposition side, you can raise the question of why judges should make and shape the law instead of the popular sovereign. The people vote for their representatives who should be in charge of making and shaping the law. Adding to this, the representatives are more likely to be a better representation of the population, as judges often times come from the elite members of the society, thus having an elite society law-making body instead of more diverse lawmaking from within parliament.
Of course, this only scratches the surface of what one might talk about and surely needs more explanation, but it gives you a general idea of what potential arguments to think about.