Staying Proceedings, Undertakings and “Buying” a Forum

One of the points of interest in the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in Haaretz.com v Goldhar (available here) concerns the appropriateness of the plaintiff’s undertaking to pay the travel and accommodation costs of the defendant’s witnesses, located in Israel, to come to the trial in Ontario.  The defendant had raised the issue of the residence of its witnesses as a factor pointing to Israel being the more appropriate forum.  The plaintiff, one presumes, made a strategic decision to counter this factor by giving the undertaking.

The motions judge and the Court of Appeal for Ontario both considered the undertaking as effective in reducing the difficulties for the defendant in having the litigation in Ontario.  However, the undertaking was viewed quite differently by at least some of the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada.  Justice Cote, joined by Justices Brown and Rowe, stated that “consideration of such an undertaking would allow a wealthy plaintiff to sway the forum non conveniens analysis, which would be inimical to the foundational principles of fairness and efficiency underlying this doctrine” (para 66).  Justice Abella, in separate reasons, stated “I think it would be tantamount to permitting parties with greater resources to tip the scales in their favour by ‘buying’ a forum. … it is their actual circumstances, and not artificially created ones, that should be weighed” (para 140).  The other five judges (two concurring in the result reached by these four; three dissenting) did not comment on the undertaking.

Supreme Court of Canada: Israel, not Ontario, is Forum Conveniens for Libel Proceedings

The decision to stay proceedings under the doctrine of forum non conveniens is discretionary, which in part means that appeal courts should be reluctant to reverse the decisions of motions judges on the issue.  It comes as some surprise, therefore, that the Supreme Court of Canada has disagreed with not only the motions judge but also the Court of Appeal for Ontario and overturned two earlier decisions denying a stay.  In Haaretz.com v Goldhar (available here) the court held (in a 6-3 decision) that the plaintiff’s libel proceedings in Ontario should be stayed because Israel is the clearly more appropriate forum.

The decision is complex, in part because the appeal also considered the issue of jurisdiction and in part because the nine judges ended up writing five sets of reasons, four concurring in the result and a fifth in dissent.  That is very unusual for Canada’s highest court.

Case C-191/18 and Us

Open your eyes, we may be next. Or maybe we are already there? Case C- 191/18, KN v Minister for Justice and Equality, is not about PIL. The questions referred to the CJ on March 16, actually relate to the European Arrest warrant (and Brexit). However, PIL decisions are mirroring the same concerns.

It has been reported, for instance, that a Polish district court has refused a Hague child return to England on the basis (inter alia) that Brexit makes the mother`s position too uncertain. A recent case before the Court of Appeal of England and Wales shows that English judges are also struggling with this (see “Brexit and Family Law”, published on October 2017 by Resolution, the Family Law Bar Association and the International Academy of Family Lawyers, supplemented by mainland IAFL Fellows, Feb 2018).

And even if it was not the case: can we really afford to stay on the sidelines?

Needless to say, Brexit is just one of the ingredients in the current European Union melting pot. Last Friday’s presentation at the Comité Français de Droit International Privé, entitled « Le Droit international privé en temps de crise », by Prof. B. Hess, provided a good assessment of the main economic, political and human factors explaining European  contemporary mess – by the way, the parliamentary elections in Slovenia on Sunday did nothing but confirm his views. One may not share all that is said on the paper; it’s is legitimate not to agree with its conclusions as to the direction PIL should follow in the near future to meet the ongoing challenges; the author’s global approach, which comes as a follow up to his 2017 Hague Lecture, is nevertheless the right one. Less now than ever before can European PIL be regarded as a “watertight compartment”, an isolated self-contained field of law. Cooperation in criminal and civil matters in the AFSJ follow different patterns and maybe this is how it should be (I am eagerly waiting to read Dr. Agnieszka Frackowiak-Adamska’s opinion on the topic, which seem to disagree with the ones I expressed in Rotterdam in 2015, and published later). The fact remains that systemic deficiencies of the judiciary in a given Member State can hardly be kept restricted to the criminal domain and leave untouched the civil one; doubts hanging over one prong necessarily expand to the other. The Celmer case, C-216/18 PPU, Minister for Justice and Equality v LM, heard last Friday (a commented report of the hearing will soon be released in Verfassungsblog, to the best of my knowledge), with all its political charge, cannot be deemed to be of no interest to us; precisely because a legal system forms a consistent whole mutual trust cannot be easily, if at all, compartmentalized.

Doors open for First Hearing of International Chamber at Paris Court of Appeal

Written by Duncan Fairgrieve (BIICL;Université de Paris Dauphine) and Solenn Le Tutour (avocat, Barreau de Paris)

When the French Government announced in February this year plans to launch an “English” Commercial court in Paris, eyebrows were raised and, it is fair to say, an element of skepticism expressed in the common law world as to whether such a development would really prove to be a serious competitor to the Commercial Courts on Fetter Lane in London. Read more

The Belgian Government unveils its plan for the Brussels International Business Court (BIBC)

Written by Guillaume Croisant, Université Libre de Bruxelles

In October 2017, as already reported in a previous post, the Belgian Government announced its intention to set up a specialised English-speaking court with jurisdiction over international commercial disputes, the Brussels International Business Court (“BIBC”). An update version of the text has finally been submitted to Parliament on 15 May 2018, after the Government’s initial draft faced criticisms from the High Council of Justice (relating to the BIBC’s independence and impartiality, its source of funding and its impact on the ordinary courts) and was subject to the review of the Conseil d’Etat. Read more

Proving Chinese Law: Deference to the Submissions from Chinese Government?

Written by Dr. Jie (Jeanne) Huang, Senior Lecturer, University of New South Wales Faculty of Law

The recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd, concerns what weight should be given to the Chinese government’s submission of Chinese law. On Page 58 of the trial transcript, Justices Kagan and Ginsburg asked how about other countries dealing with formal submissions from the Chinese government. There are two examples.

Who Owns France.com?

France is a state. France.com, by contrast, is a domain name, and it was, until recently, owned not by the French state but instead by a Californian company, France.com, Inc. That conflict is now being litigated in a fascinating dispute  reminiscent of the early days of the internet.

In those early days, in 1994 to be precise, a French-born individual living in the United States, Jean-Noël Frydman, registered the domain name France.com. The domain name is now held by a Californian company, France.com Inc, which Frydman set up. The website, at first dedicated to general information for Francophiles around the world, was later expanded to operate as a travel site. But France.com, Inc, did not, it appears, own trademarks in Europe. This enabled a Dutch company, Traveland Resorts, to register French and European word and graphic marks for France.com in 2010. In 2014, France.com, Inc brought suit in France against Traveland for fraudulent filings of trademarks and achieved a settlement under which Traveland transferred the trademarks.

The Supreme Court deals the death blow to US Human Rights Litigation

Written by Bastian Brunk, research assistant and doctoral student at the Institute for Comparative and Private International Law at the University of Freiburg (Germany)

On April 24, the Supreme Court of the United States released its decision in Jesner v Arab Bank (available here; see also the pre-decision analysis by Hannah Dittmers linked here and first thoughts after the decision of Amy Howe here) and, in a 5:4 majority vote, shut the door that it had left ajar in its Kiobel decision. Both cases are concerned with the question whether private corporations may be sued under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). Read more

No handshake, no citizenship – but with a second wife, everything’s fine?

Two recent judgments of European courts have highlighted the difficulty in finding the right balance between the cultural assimilation of Muslim immigrants demanded by national laws on citizenship and the necessary degree of tolerance towards foreign laws and customs. In a widely reported decision of 11 April 2018, the French Council of State (Conseil d’Etat) ruled that a naturalisation of an Algerian-born woman could be revoked because she had refused to shake hands with a male public servant during the naturalisation ceremony. Read more

Child Abduction and Habitual Residence in the Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada, in Office of the Children’s Lawyer v Balev (available here), has evolved the law in Canada on the meaning of a child’s habitual residence under Article 3 of the Hague Convention.  The Convention deals with the return of children wrongfully removed from the jurisdiction of their habitual residence.

A majority of the court identifies [paras 4 and 39ff] three possible approaches to habitual residence: the parental intention approach, the child-centred approach, and the hybrid approach.  The parental intention approach determines the habitual residence of a child by the intention of the parents with the right to determine where the child lives.  This approach has been the dominant one in Canada.  In contrast, the hybrid approach, instead of focusing primarily on either parental intention or the child’s acclimatization, looks to all relevant considerations arising from the facts of the case.  A majority of the court, led by the (now retired) Chief Justice, holds that the law in Canada should be the hybrid approach [paras 5 and 48].  One of the main reasons for the change is that the hybrid approach is used in many other Hague Convention countries [paras 49-50].