Towards a European Commercial Court?

The prospect of Brexit has led a number of countries on the European continent to take measures designed to make their civil justice systems more attractive for international litigants: In Germany, the so-called “Justice Initiative Frankfurt”, consisting of lawyers, judges, politicians and academics, has resulted in the creation of a special chamber for commercial matters at the District Court in Frankfurt which will, if both parties agree, conduct the proceedings largely in English (see here). In France, an English-language chamber for international commercial matters was established at the Cour d’appel in Paris, adding a second instance to the English-speaking chamber of commerce at the Tribunal de commerce in Paris (see here). In the Netherlands, the Netherlands Commercial Court and the Netherlands Commercial Court of Appeal will soon begin their work as special chambers of the Rechtbank and the Gerechtshof Amsterdam (see here). And in Belgium, the government plans to establish a Brussels International Business Court (see here). Clearly: the prospect of Brexit has stirred up the European market for international litigation.


Talaq v Greek public policy: Operation successful, patient dead…

A talaq divorce is rarely knocking at the door of Greek courts. A court in Thessaloniki dismissed an application for the recognition of an Egyptian talaq, invoking the public policy clause, despite the fact that the application was filed by the wife. You can find more information about the case, and check my brief comment here.

What puzzles me though is whether there are more jurisdictions sharing the same view. Personally I don’t feel at ease with this ruling for a number of reasons. But prior to that, a couple of clarifications:

  1. This case bears no resemblance to the Sahyouni saga. The spouses have no double nationality: The husband is an Egyptian, the wife a Greek national.
  2. There was no back and forth in their lives: they got married in Cairo, and lived there until the talaq was notarized. Following that, the spouse moved to Greece, and filed the application at the place of her new residence.
  3. Unlike Egypt, Greece is not a signatory of the 1970 Hague Convention on the Recognition of Divorces and Legal Separations.
  4. There is no bilateral agreement between the two countries in the field.

I’m coming now to the reasons of my disagreement with the judgment’s outcome.

  1. The result is not in line with the prevalent view in a number of European jurisdictions: From the research I was able to conduct, it is my understanding that Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland, do not see any public policy violation, when the wife takes the initiative to apply for recognition of the talaq.
  2. The reasoning of the court is a verbatim reiteration of an Athens Court of Appeal judgement from the ‘90s. It reads as follows: Solely the recognition of such an act would cause profound disturbance to the Greek legal order, if its effects are to be extended and applied in Greece on the basis of the Egyptian applicable rules. What is actually missing is the reason why recognition will lead to profound disturbance, and to whom. Surely not to the spouse, otherwise she wouldn’t file an application to recognize the talaq.
  3. It should be remembered that the public policy clause is not targeting at the foreign legislation applied in the country of origin or the judgment per se; moreover, it focuses on the repercussions caused by the extension of its effects in the country of destination. Given the consent of the spouse, I do not see who is going to feel disturbed.
  4. Recognition would not grant carte blanche for talaq divorces in Greece. As in other jurisdictions, Greece remains devoted to fundamental rights. What makes a difference here is the initiative of the spouse. In other words, the rule remains the same, i.e. no recognition, unless there’s consent by the wife. Consent need not be present at the time the talaq was uttered or notarized; it may be demonstrated at a later stage, either expressly or tacitly. I guess nobody would seriously argue that consent is missing in the case at hand.
  5. Talking about consent, one shouldn’t exclude an ex ante tacit agreement of the spouses for financial reasons. It has been already reported that all remaining options for a spouse in countries where Sharia is predominant are much more complicated, time-consuming, cumbersome, and detrimental to the wife. Take khul for example: It is indeed a solution, but at what cost for the spouse…
  6. Last but not least, what are the actual consequences of refusal for the spouse? She will remain in limbo for a while, until she manages to get a divorce decree in Greece. But it won’t be an easy task to accomplish, and it will come at a heavy price: New claim, translations in Arabic, service in Egypt (which means all the 1965 Hague Service Convention conditions need to be met; Egypt is very strict on the matter: no alternative methods allowed!); and a very careful preparation of the pleadings, so as to avoid a possible stay of proceedings, if the court requires additional information on Egyptian law (a legal information will most probably double the cost of litigation…).

For all the reasons aforementioned, I consider that the judgment is going to the wrong direction, and a shift in Greek case law is imperative, especially in light of the thousands of refugees from Arab countries who are now living in the country.

As I mentioned in the beginning, any information on the treatment of similar cases in your jurisdictions is most welcome.

From the editors’ desk: Relaunch of!

Dear readers, has been around for 12 years by now. It has developed into one of the most relevant platforms for the exchange of information and the discussion of topics relating to conflict of laws in a broad sense. And while the world has changed a lot during the past 12 years the look of has basically remained the same. Today this is going to change: (more…)


Choice of Law in the American Courts in 2021: Thirty-Fifth Annual Survey

The 35th Annual Survey of Choice of Law in the American Courts (2021) has been posted to SSRN. The authors of this year’s survey owe an enormous debt to Symeon Symeonides who has, over the past three decades, provided an extraordinary service by authoring the previous thirty annual surveys. Having now finished our first survey, we are all the more impressed with his work. Thank you Symeon — and thank you all for reading.

John Coyle (University of North Carolina School of Law)
William Dodge (University of California, Davis School of Law)
Aaron Simowitz (Willamette University College of Law)

Giustizia consensuale No 2/2021: Abstracts

The second issue of 2021 of Giustizia Consensuale (published by Editoriale Scientifica) has just been released and it features:

Silvia Barona Vilar (Professor at the University of València) Sfide e pericoli delle ADR nella società digitale e algoritmica del secolo XXI (Challenges and Pitfalls of ADR in the Digital and Algorithmic Society of the XXI Century; in Italian)

In the XX century, dispute resolution was characterized by the leading role played by State courts: however, this situation has begun to change. With modernity and globalization has come the search of ways to ensure the ‘deconflictualisation’ of social and economic relations and solve conflicts arising out of them. In this context, ADR – and now ODR – have had a decisive impulse in the last decades and are now enshrined in the digital society of the XXI century. ADR mechanisms are, in fact, approached as means to ensure access to justice, favouring at the same time social peace and citizens’ satisfaction. Nevertheless, some uncertainties remain and may affect ADR’s impulse and future consolidation: among such uncertainties are the to-date scarce negotiation culture for conflict resolution, the need for training in negotiation tools, the need for State involvement in these new scenarios, as well as the attentive look at artificial intelligence, both in its ‘soft’ version (welfare) and its ‘hard’ version (replacement of human beings with machine intelligence).

Amy J. Schmitz (Professor at the Ohio State University), Lola Akin Ojelabi (Associate Professor at La Trobe University, Melbourne) and John Zeleznikow (Professor at La Trobe University, Melbourne), Researching Online Dispute Resolution to Expand Access to Justice

In this paper, the authors argue that Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) may expand Access to Justice (A2J) if properly designed, implemented, and continually improved. The article sets the stage for this argument by providing background on ODR research, as well as theory, to date. However, the authors note how the empirical research has been lacking and argue for more robust and expansion of studies. Moreover, they propose that research must include consideration of culture, as well as measures to address the needs of self-represented litigants and the most vulnerable. It is one thing to argue that ODR should be accessible, appropriate, equitable, efficient, and effective. However, ongoing research is necessary to ensure that these ideals remain core to ODR design and implementation.

Marco Gradi (Associate Professor at the University of Messina), Teoria dell’accertamento consensuale: storia di un’incomprensione (The Doctrine of ‘Negotiation of Ascertainment’: Story of a Misunderstanding; in Italian)

This article examines the Italian doctrine of ‘negotiation of ascertainment’ (negozio di accertamento), by means of which the parties put an end to a legal dispute by determining the content of their relationship by mutual consent. Notably, by characterizing legal ascertainment as a binding judgment vis-à-vis the parties’ pre-existing legal relationship, the author contributes to overcoming the misunderstandings that have always denoted the debate in legal scholarship, thus laying down the foundations towards a complete theory on consensual ascertainment.

Cristina M. Mariottini (Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for Procedural Law), The Singapore Convention on International Mediated Settlement Agreements: A New Status for Party Autonomy in the Non-Adjudicative Process

The United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (the ‘Singapore Convention’), adopted in 2018 and entered into force in 2020, is designed to facilitate cross-border trade and commerce, in particular by enabling disputing parties to enforce and invoke settlement agreements in the cross-border setting without going through the cumbersome and potentially uncertain conversion of the settlement into a court judgment or an arbitral award. Against this background, the Convention frames a new status for mediated settlements: namely, on the one hand it converts agreements that would otherwise amount to a private contractual act into an instrument eligible for cross-border circulation in Contracting States and, on the other hand, it sets up an international, legally binding and partly harmonized system for such circulation. After providing an overview of the defining features of this new international treaty, this article contextualizes the Singapore Convention in the realm of international consent-based dispute resolution mechanisms.


Observatory on Legislation and Regulations

Ivan Cardillo (Senior Lecturer at the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan), Recenti sviluppi della mediazione in Cina (Recent developments in mediation in China; in Italian)

This article examines the most recent developments on mediation in China. The analysis revolves around, in particular, two prominent documents: namely, the ‘14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives for 2035’ and the ‘Guiding Opinions of the Supreme People’s Court on Accelerating Steps to Motivate the Mediation Platforms of the People’s Courts to Enter Villages, Residential Communities and Community Grids.’ In particular, the so-called ‘Fengqiao experience’ ? which developed as of the 1960s in the Fengqiao community and has become a model of proximity justice ? remains the benchmark practice for the development of a model based on the three principles of self-government, government by law, and government by virtue. In this framework, mediation is increasingly identified as the main echanism for dispute resolution and social management: in this respect, the increasing use of technology proves to be crucial for the development of mediation platforms and the efficiency of the entire judicial system. Against this background, the complex relationship becomes apparent between popular and judicial mediation, their coordination and their importance for governance and social stability: arguably, such a relationship will carry with it in the future the need to balance the swift dispute resolution with the protection of fundamental rights.

Angela D’Errico (Fellow at the University of Macerata), Le Alternative Dispute Resolution nelle controversie pubblicistiche: verso una minore indisponibilità degli interessi legittimi? (Alternative Dispute Resolution in Public Sector Disputes: Towards an Abridged Non-Availability of Legitimate Interests?; in Italian)

This work analyzes the theme of ADR in publicity disputes and, in particular, it’s understood to deepen the concepts of the availability of administrative power and legitimate interests that hinder the current applicability of ADRs in public matters. After having taken into consideration the different types of ADR in the Italian legal system with related peculiarities and criticalities, it’s understood, in the final part of the work, to propose a new opening to the recognition of these alternative instruments to litigation for a better optimization of justice.

Observatory on Jurisprudence

Domenico Dalfino (Professor at the University ‘Aldo Moro’ in Bari), Mediazione e opposizione a decreto ingiuntivo, tra vizi di fondo e ipocrisia del legislatore (Mediation and Opposition to an Injunction: Between Underlying Flaws and Hypocrisy of the Legislator; in Italian)

In 2020, the plenary session of the Italian Court of Cassation, deciding a question of particular significance, ruled that the burden of initiating the mandatory mediation procedure in proceedings opposing an injunction lies with the creditor. This principle sheds the light on further pending questions surrounding mandatory mediation.

Observatory on Practices

Andrea Marighetto (Visiting Lecturer at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul) and Luca Dal Pubel (Lecturer at the San Diego State University), Consumer Protection and Online Dispute Resolution in Brazil

With the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), Information and Communication Technology (ICT) including the internet, computers, digital technology, and electronic services have become absolute protagonists of our lives, without which even the exercise of basic rights can be harmed. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased and further emphasized the demand to boost the use of ICT to ensure access to basic services including access to justice. Specifically, at a time when consumer relations represent the majority of mass legal relations, the demand for a system of speedy access to justice has become necessary. Since the early ’90s, Brazil has been at the forefront of consumer protection. In the last decade, it has taken additional steps to enhance consumer protection by adopting, a public Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform for consumer disputes. This article looks at consumer protection in Brazil in the context of the 4IR and examines the role that ODR and specifically the platform play in improving consumer protection and providing consumers with an additional instrument to access justice.

In addition to the foregoing, this issue features the following book review by Maria Rosaria Ferrarese (Professor at the University of Cagliari): Antoine Garapon and Jean Lassègue, Giustizia digitale. Determinismo tecnologico e libertà (Italian version, edited by M.R. Ferrarese), Bologna, Il Mulino, 2021, 1-264.

Out now: Zeitschrift für vergleichende Rechtswissenschaft (ZVglRWiss) 120 (2021) No. 4

The most recent issue of the German Journal of Comparative Law (Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Rechtswissenschaft) features the following articles on private international and comparative law:

Jürgen Samtleben: Internationales Privatrecht in Guatemala

Guatemala’s rules on private international law of Guatemala are found in the Law of Judicial Organization of 1989. But conflict-of-law questions are also regulated in other laws. All these legislative texts are based on older laws, since Guatemala has a rich legal tradition on this subject. It is only against the background of this tradition that one can understand the meaning of the laws actually in force. The article discusses the different aspects of Guatemalan private international law, which today is generally based on the principle of domicile. The law of 1989 introduces two innovations which are worth emphasizing: the application of foreign law ex officio and the principle of party autonomy for international contracts.

Christoph Wendelstein: Eigenes und Fremdes im Kollisionsrecht

The article sheds light on the relationship between the conflict of laws and the substantive laws (potentially) called upon to apply. In doing so, the question is addressed whether the substantive law influences the conflict of laws. The focus is on the question of characterisation, which traditionally represents a kind of crystallization point between conflict of laws and substantive law. If the conflict of laws rules apply to foreign substantive law, the question may arise as to whether this completely displaces the own domestic substantive law or whether it is still relevant in some way. This refers to the ordre public and the overriding mandatory provisions (Eingriffsnormen), which are also object of the study. The focus lies on their functioning.

Jean Mohamed: Die aktienrechtliche actio pro socio im globalen Kontext – Zur Abgrenzung von materiellem Recht und Verfahrensrecht im anglo-amerikanischen Rechtskreis am Beispiel der derivative action in New York

The German procedure for the admission of corporate claims (derivative claims), a special institution based on stock corporation law for the so-called actio pro socio, has taken a long journey all the way to New York at present. In keeping with the verse by Frank Sinatra: “If I can make it here, I’ll make it anywhere”, the subject is whether an international movement of the shareholder action – i. e. claims of the corporation asserted in the shareholder’s own name – may be imminent. In the New York proceeding Zahava Rosenfeld, derivatively as a shareholder of Deutsche Bank AG and on behalf of Deutsche Bank AG v. Paul Achleitner et al., the conflict of laws matches the German system known in § 148 of the German Stock Corporation Act with the New York’s (and the US) concept of the related derivative suit, also known as derivative action or derivative claim. Given the potential risks involved, it seems highly relevant from a legal, academic, and political point of view to discuss and model this quite complex but so far barely studied issue. In the following, the global procedural rules of derivative actions will therefore be discussed.

David B. Adler: Extraterritoriale US-Discovery für Schieds- und Gerichtsverfahren im Ausland

For decades, 28 U.S.C. § 1782(a) has offered a powerful tool for parties to obtain discovery through U.S. courts for use in foreign proceedings. Referring to the statute’s twin goals to provide “efficient assistance to participants in international litigation and encourag[e] foreign countries by example to provide similar assistance to our courts”, U.S. courts have time and again demonstrated that they are willing to readily grant respective discovery requests from foreign applicants. While the U.S. Supreme Court has answered various questions regarding the applicability and scope of § 1782(a) in its Intel Corp. v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. decision, two key issues remained undecided. The first issue U.S. courts have been grappling with, and which has been an ongoing topic of interest among international arbitration practitioners and scholars for several decades, is whether the statute allows parties of foreign private arbitration proceedings to seek discovery via § 1782(a), or if § 1782(a) is limited to parties that seek support for a foreign court or administrative proceedings. The second issue concerns the extraterritorial reach of § 1782(a). Courts have issued diverging rulings on whether Section 1782 allows an applicant to seek the production of documents that are located outside the U.S. and on whether § 1782(a) contains a per se bar to its extraterritorial application. This article analyzes the recent appellate decisions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second, Fourth and Sixth Circuit – which are the first appellate rulings since Intel to weigh in on these issues in detail. This article further discusses whether there should be a per se bar to the extraterritorial application of Section 1782 and explains the broad implications that the recent appellate courts’ decisions on both issues have for foreign litigants and entities that are subject to the United States’ jurisdiction.