AG Maciej Szpunar on the interpretation of the ESR in relation to cross-border declarations of waiver of succession and on substitution and characterisation, Opinion of 20 January 2022, C-617/20 – T.N. et al. ./. E.G.

Yesterday, AG Maciej Szpunar delivered an Opinion (a French version is available, a German as well, not yet, however, an English one) that is of high relevance both to the practical application of the European Succession Regulation (ESR) as well as to issues  of European choice of law methodology in relation to substitution and characterisation.

The case emerged from a preliminary reference by the German Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht) Bremen of 11 November 2020 and involved the following facts:

South African court issues interdict against Shell concerning seismic survey

The High Court of the Eastern Cape in Makhanda (Grahamstown), South Africa, on 28 December 2021 issued an interim interdict to stop Shell from commencing seismic activity off the south-eastern coast of South Africa. The full judgment is available on Saflii.

From a conflict-of-laws perspective, the interdict raises some points of interest.

Has the Battle Just Begun for Collective Action against Big Tech Companies?

Julia Hörnle, Professor of Internet Law, CCLS, Queen Mary University of London[1]

It is now well known that internet users are widely tracked and profiled by a range of actors and the advancements in data science mean that such tracking and profiling is increasingly commercially profitable[2]. This raises difficult questions about how to balance the value of data with individual privacy. But since there is no point in having privacy (or data protection) rights if no redress can be found to vindicate them, it is even more important to investigate how internet users can obtain justice, if their privacy has been infringed. Given the power of Big Tech Companies, their enormous financial resources, cross-jurisdictional reach and their global impact on users’ privacy, there are two main litigation challenges for successfully bringing a privacy claim against Big Tech. One is the jurisdictional challenge of finding a competent court in the same jurisdiction as the individual users.[3] Secondly, the challenge is how to finance mass claims, involving millions of affected users. In privacy claims it is likely that there is significant user detriment, potentially with long-term and latent consequences, which are difficult to measure. This constellation provides a strong argument for facilitating collective redress, as otherwise individual users may not be able to obtain justice for privacy infringements before the courts. In privacy infringement claims these two challenges are intertwined and present a double-whammy for successful redress. Courts in a number of recent cases had to grapple with questions of jurisdiction in consumer collective redress cases in the face of existing provision on consumer jurisdiction and collective redress, which have not (yet) been fully adapted to deal with the privacy challenges stemming from Big Tech in the 21st century.

In Case C-498/16 Max Schrems v Facebook Ireland[4] the Court of Justice of the EU in 2018 denied the privilege of EU law for consumers to sue in their local court[5] to a representative (ie Max Schrems) in a representative privacy litigation against Facebook under Austrian law. By contrast, courts in California and Canada have found a contractual jurisdiction and applicable law clause invalid as a matter of public policy in order to allow a class action privacy claim to proceed against Facebook.[6] In England, the dual challenge of jurisdiction and collective actions in a mass privacy infringement claim has presented itself before the English Courts, first in Vidal-Hall v Google before the Court of Appeal in 2015[7] and in the Supreme Court judgment of Google v Lloyd in November 2021[8]. Both cases concerned preliminary proceedings on the question of whether the English courts had jurisdiction to hear the action, ie whether the claimant was able to serve Google with proceedings in the USA and have illustrated the limitations of English law for the feasibility of bringing a collective action in mass-privacy infringement claims.

Court of Justice of the EU on the recognition of parentage

After the Coman judgment of 2018, the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has again rendered a judgment in the field of free movement of citizens that is of importance for private international law. Like in Coman, the judgment in V.M.A. of 14 December 2021 concerned a non-traditional family of which the members sought to make use of their right to free movement in the EU under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Directive 2004/38. The  Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (Charter) was also pertinent, particularly its Article 7 on respect for private and family life, Article 9 on the right to marry and the right to found a family,  Article 24 on the rights of the child, and Article 45 on freedom of movement and of residence.

While Coman concerned the definition of “spouse” under Article 2 of the Directive, in V.M.A. the CJEU addressed the definition of  “direct descendants” in the same provision.

Two women, V.M.A., a Bulgarian national, and K.D.K., a national of the United Kingdom, were married and lived in Spain. A daughter, S.D.K.A., was born in Spain. Her Spanish birth certificate indicated V.M.A. as “mother A” and K.D.K. as “mother”. V.M.A. applied to the Sofia municipality for a birth certificate for S.D.K.A. in order to obtain a Bulgarian identity document for her. She submitted a legalised and certified translation into Bulgarian of the extract from the civil register of Barcelona.

The Hidden Treasure Trove of Conflicts of Law: the Case Law of the Mixed Courts of the Colonial Era

Guest post by Willem Theus, PhD Researcher (KULeuven, cotutelle with UCLouvain)

The history of private international law (or ‘conflict of laws’) is incomplete. Private international law textbooks have always referred to the essentials of the history of our discipline.[1] However, these essentials are often solely based on the history of conflict of laws in the West and on the works of western authors such as Huber, Von Savigny and Story. It is undoubtedly true that these authors played an important role and that the  “modern” conflict of laws finds it origin in 19thcentury Europe, when the split between private and public international law occurred.[2] This is however only one part of history.

Conflict of laws systems have been around much longer and are definitely not uniquely western. They were already present in the very first civilizations, with some rules of that ancient history still resembling our present-day rules.[3]Conflict of laws is “the body of law that aims to resolve claims involving foreign elements”.[4] A state or international border is therefore not required to have a conflict of laws system,[5] only different jurisdictions and laws (i.e. legal pluralism[6]) are. A distinction could therefore be made between “external” (i.e. crossing an international State border) conflict of laws or private international law and “internal” conflict of laws (i.e. within one State).[7] Both the historical research and the contemporary study of our field should arguably reflect much more on precolonial and/or non-western conflict of laws systems and on the unique linkage between the national (or “internal”) and international (or “external”) spheres. This is especially so given that “external” conflict of laws rules seem to sometimes guide “internal” conflict of laws cases.[8] I offer one historical example to highlight the new perspectives that such a widening of scope could offer.

In a not so distant and colonial past, there were multiple “internationalized” or mixed courts in various regions and nations. The last such mixed court only closed its doors in 1980.[9] In general, mixed courts were local courts that employed a mixed (read mostly Western) bench, bar and legal system to deal with legal conflicts that had a mixed or “foreign” element, i.e. conflicts not exclusively related to one local or foreign resident population.[10] Those exclusively local or intra-foreigner  -of the same nationality-  legal conflicts were often dealt with by various local or consular courts. The mixed or “foreign” element was however often widely interpreted and therefore quickly kicked in, leading to overlapping jurisdictions in many instances and therefore to a conflict of laws system.

New civil procedure rules in Singapore

New civil procedure rules in Singapore

New civil procedure rules (Rules of Court 2021) for the General Division of the High Court (excluding the Singapore International Commercial Court (‘SICC’)) have been gazetted and will be implemented on 1 April 2022. The reform is intended to modernise the litigation process and improve efficiency.[1] New rules for the SICC have also been gazetted and will similarly come into operation on 1 April 2022.

This update focuses on the rules which apply to the General Division of the High Court (excluding the SICC). New rules which are of particular interest from a conflict of laws point of view include changes to the rules on service out. The new Order 8 rule 1 provides that:

‘(1) An originating process or other court document may be served out of Singapore with the Court’s approval if it can be shown that the Court has the jurisdiction or is the appropriate court to hear the action.

(3) The Court’s approval is not required if service out of Singapore is allowed under a contract between the parties.

CJEU Rules on the interplay between Brussels IIA and Dublin III

This post was contributed by Dr. Vito Bumbaca, who is Assistant Lecturer at the University of Geneva

In a ruling of 2 August 2021 (A v. B, C-262/21 PPU), the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) clarified that a child who is allegedly wrongfully removed, meaning without consent of the other parent, should not return to his/ her habitual residence if such a removal took place as a consequence of the ordered transfer determining international responsibility based on the Dublin III Regulation. The judgment is not available in English and is the first ever emanating from this Court concerning the Brussels IIA-Dublin III interplay.

The Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, repealing Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000 (Brussels IIA Regulation) complements the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and is applicable to 26 EU Member States, including Finland and Sweden. The Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of 26 June 2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person (recast) (Dublin III), is pertinent for asylum seekers’ applications commenced at least in one of the 31 Dublin Member States (EU/EFTA), comprising Finland and Sweden, bound by this Regulation.

Questions for a CJEU urgent preliminary ruling:

The CJEU was referred five questions, but only addressed the first two.

‘(1) Must Article 2(11) of [Regulation No 2201/2003], relating to the wrongful removal of a child, be interpreted as meaning that a situation in which one of the parents, without the other parent’s consent, removes the child from his or her place of residence to another Member State, which is the Member State responsible under a transfer decision taken by an authority in application of Regulation [No 604/2013], must be classified as wrongful removal?

The Tango Between Brussels Ibis Regulation and Rome I Regulation under the Beat of Package Travel Directive

Written by Zhen Chen, doctoral candidate at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands

The article titled ‘The Tango Between Art.17(3) Brussels Ibis and Art.6(4)(b) Rome I under the Beat of Package Travel Directive’ is published on Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law with open access, available at https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1023263X211048595

In the field of European private international law, Brussels Ibis Regulation and Rome I Regulation are dancing partners that work closely with different roles. When it comes to consumer protection, Brussels Ibis Regulation is the leader and Rome I Regulation is the follower, since special protective rules over consumer contracts were first introduced in Articles 13–15 Brussels Convention[1] and then followed by Article 5 Rome Convention.[2]

Chinese Court Enforces Singaporean Judgment based on De Jure Reciprocity

By Zheng Sophia Tang, Wuhan University Institute of International Law and Academy of International Law and Global Governance

 

Chinese courts recognize and enforce foreign civil and commercial judgments under two circumstances: the existence of treaty obligations and the existence of reciprocity. In the past, Chinese courts relied solely on de facto reciprocity to enforce foreign judgments, which requires evidence to prove the courts in the foreign country enforced Chinese judgments in previous cases. Some courts have adopted an even tougher approach and rejected enforcing foreign judgments even though one positive precedent exists in the foreign country, arguing one case is not enough to prove reciprocity. The application of de facto reciprocity causes difficulty to enforce foreign judgments in Chinese courts. It makes enforcement impossible if no application was made to the foreign court to enforce Chinese judgment in the past, and if the other country also adopts the de facto reciprocity. It also makes proving reciprocity difficulty, especially if the foreign country has no comprehensive case report system.

The German Federal Court of Justice on the validity of a proxy marriage concluded in Mexico

Written by Greta Siegert, doctoral candidate at the University of Freiburg.

 

In a recent decision of 29 September 2021 – case XII ZB 309/21, the German Federal Court of Justice (BGH) once again confirmed the validity of proxy marriages concluded abroad under the condition that they met the formal requirements of the applicable foreign law.

The parties, a German woman and a male citizen of Syria, had concluded a proxy marriage in Baja California Sur (Mexico). At the time of the marriage, neither of them was present in Mexico nor had ever met their respective representatives. The declarations of proxy had been prepared by a German notary both in English and Spanish. When the couple applied for a marriage name declaration in Germany, the responsible registry office denied such an entry, invoking the marriage’s formal invalidity.

Reviewing this case, the German Federal Court ruled that there were no doubts regarding the marriage’s formal validity, hence holding it valid in absence of other issues of concern.