Dubai Courts on the Recognition of Foreign Judgments: “Recognition” or “Enforcement”? – that’s the Problem!

“Recognition” and “enforcement” are fundamental concepts when dealing with the international circulation of foreign judgments. Although they are often used interchangeably, it is generally agreed that these two notions have different purposes and, ultimately, different procedures (depending on whether the principle of de plano recognition is accepted or not. See Béligh Elbalti, “Spontaneous Harmonization and the Liberalization of the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments, Japanese Yearbook of Private International Law, Vol. 16, 2014, p. 269).

However, in legal systems where this fundamental distinction is not well established, the amalgamation of the two notions may give rise to unnecessary complications that are likely to jeopardize the legitimate rights of the parties. The following case, very recently decided by the Dubai Supreme Court, is nothing but one of many examples which show how misconceptions and confusion regarding the notion of “recognition” would lead to unpredictable results (cf. e.g., Béligh Elbalti, “Perspective of Arab Countries”, in M. Weller et al. (eds.), The 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention – Cornerstones, Prospects, Outlook (Hart, 2023) pp. 1983-184ff).

The case

The parties, in this case, are (1) A British Virgin Islands company (hereinafter ‘X1’) and its judicial liquidator (hereinafter ‘X2’, collectively “Xs”) and (2) four companies having considerable estates in Dubai (hereinafter ‘Y’).

In 2021, Xs brought an action before the Dubai Court of First Instance (hereinafter “DCFI”) seeking a ‘declaration of validity’ of a decision of the British Virgin Islands Supreme Court declaring the dissolution of X1 and appointing X2 as its judicial liquidator (hereinafter “the foreign judgment”). Xs justified their action by stating that they intended to bring legal actions against Y for the recovery of due sums of money that they were entitled to and, eventually, would avoid their actions being dismissed for lack of standing.

The DCFI dismissed the action on the ground that Xs had failed to show that service had been duly effected and that the foreign judgment had become final according to the law of the state of origin (DCFI, Case No. 338/2021 of 27 October 2021). Xs appealed to the Dubai Court of Appeal (hereinafter “DCA”) arguing, inter alia, that legal notification to the X1’s creditors had been duly served through two newspapers and that, therefore, the foreign judgment should be given effect. However, without addressing the issue of the recognizability of the foreign judgment, the DCA dismissed the appeal holding that Xs had failed to prove their case (DCA, Appeal No. 3174/2021 of 27 January 2022).

Instead of appealing to the Supreme Court, Xs returned to the DCFI to try again to have the foreign judgment be given effect. Having learned from their first unsuccessful attempt, Xs this time ensured that they had all the necessary evidence to show that service had been duly effected, that the foreign judgment had been rendered following regular procedure, and that it had become final and no longer subject to appeal. The DCFI, however, dismissed the action considering that its subject matter concerned, in fact, the “enforcement” of the foreign judgment and, therefore, applications for enforcement should be made by filing a petition to the Execution Court and not by initiating an ordinary action before the DCFI (DCFI, Case No. 329/2022 of 14 November 2022).

Xs appealed to the DCA before which they argued that the foreign judgment did not order Y to perform any obligation but simply declared the dissolution of X1 and appointed X2 as judicial liquidator. Xs also argued that the DCFI had erred in characterizing their claim as a request for “enforcement” as they were not seeking to enforce the foreign judgment. Therefore, it would have been inappropriate to pursue their claim following the prescribed procedure for enforcement where the main purpose of their action is to “recognize” the foreign judgment. The DCA dismissed the appeal holding that the Xs’ action lacked legal basis. According to the DCA, Xs’ request for the foreign judgment to be “declared valid” was not within the jurisdiction of the UAE courts, which was limited to “enforcing” foreign judgments and not declaring them “valid”. As for the enforcement procedure, the DCA considered that it was subject to the jurisdiction of the Execution Court in accordance with the procedure prescribed to that effect (DCA, Appeal No. 2684 of 25 January 2023). Dissatisfied with the outcome, Xs appealed to the Supreme Court (hereinafter “DSC”).

Before the DSC, Xs made the same argument as before the DCA, insisting that the purpose of their action was not to “enforce” the foreign judgment but to “recognize” it so that they could rely on it in subsequent actions against Y. The DSC rejected this argument and dismissed the appeal on the basis that the UAE courts’ jurisdiction was limited only to “enforce” foreign judgments in accordance with the prescribed rules of procedure, which were of a public policy nature. The DSC also held that the lower courts were not bound by the legal characterization made by the litigants but should independently give the correct legal characterization to the actions brought before them in accordance with the rules of law in force in the State (DSC, Appeal No. 375 of 23 May 2023).



The case reported here is particularly interesting. It illustrates the difficulty that Dubai courts (and UAE courts in general) have in dealing with some fundamental concepts of private international law.

Unlike the international conventions ratified by the UAE, which generally distinguish between “recognition” and “enforcement” of foreign judgments”, UAE domestic law refers mainly to “enforcement” but not “recognition”. Moreover, as mentioned in a previous post, the procedure for enforcement has recently undergone an important change, as the former procedure based on bringing an ordinary action before the DCFI has been replaced by a more another procedure consisting of filing a petition for an “order on motion” before the Execution Court (new Art. 222 of the New Federal Civil Procedure Act [FCPA]). However, the current legislation in force says nothing about the “recognition” of foreign judgments.

If one looks at the practice of the courts, one can observe two different tendencies. One tendency, which seems to be prevailing, consists in denying effect (notably res judicata effect) to foreign judgments that were not declared enforceable. In some cases, UAE courts considered that foreign judgments could not be relied upon because there was no proof that they had been declared enforceable (See, e.g., Federal Supreme Court, Appeal No 320/16 of 18 April 1995; Appeal No. 326/28 of 27 June 2006) or that foreign judgments could only have legal authority (hujjia) after being declared enforceable and consistent with public policy (Abu Dhabi Supreme Court, Appeal No. 31/2016 of 7 December 2016).

Another tendency consist in admitting that foreign judgment could be granted effect. Some cases, indeed, suggest that recognition can be incidentally admitted if certain conditions are met. These include, in particular, the following: (1) that the foreign judgment is final and conclusive according to the law of the rendering state, and (2) the foreign judgment was rendered between the same parties on the same subject matter and cause of action (see, e.g., Federal Supreme Court, Appeal No. 208/2015 of 7 October 2015; DSC, Appeal No. 276/2008 of 7 April 2009; Abu Dhabi Supreme Court, Appeal No. 106/2016 of 11 May 2016; Appeal No. 536/2019 of 11 December 2019. In all these cases, recognition was not granted). Only in a few cases have the UAE courts (in particular Dubai courts) exceptionally recognized foreign judgments (DSC, Appeal No. 16/2009 of 14 April 2009; Appeal No. 415/2021 of 30 December 2021 upholding the conclusions of DCFI accepting the res judicata effect of a foreign judgment.)


Unlike the cases cited above, the case reported here is one of the rare cases in which the parties sought to recognize a foreign judgment by way of action. The arguments of the Xs, in this case, were particularly convincing. According to Xs, since the foreign judgment did not order the defendants to perform any obligation and since Xs merely sought formal recognition of the foreign judgment, there was no need to have the foreign judgment declared “enforceable” in accordance with the enforcement procedure provided for in Art. 222 FCPA.

However, the decisions of the Dubai courts that UAE courts are only entitled to “enforce” foreign judgments are particularly problematic. First, it demonstrates a serious confusion of basic fundamental notions of private international law. The fact that Xs sought to have the foreign judgment “declared valid” does not mean that Dubai courts were required to consider the foreign judgment’s validity as such but rather to consider whether the foreign judgment could be given effect in the UAE, and this is a matter of “recognition”. Secondly, the courts seem to have forgotten that – as indicated above – they did consider whether a foreign judgment could be given effect in the UAE, albeit incidentally. The fact that such an examination is brought before the court by way of action does not change in anything the nature of the problem in any way. Finally, in the absence of any specific provision on the recognition of foreign judgments, particularly where a party seeks to do so by way of action, there would appear to be nothing to prevent the courts from allowing an interested party to proceed by way of an ordinary action before the court of first instance since the ultimate purpose is not to declare the foreign judgment “enforceable”, as this, indeed, would require compliance with the special procedure set out in Art. 222 FCPA. (For a discussion of the issue from the 2019 HCCH Judgments Conventions, see Béligh Elbalti, “Perspective of Arab Countries”, op.cit., pp. 183, 202, 205).

Van Den Eeckhout on CJEU Case Law in PIL matters

Written by Veerle Van Den Eeckhout, working at the Research and Documentation Directorate of the CJEU

On 29 April 2023, Veerle Van Den Eeckhout gave a presentation on recent case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union. The presentation, now available online, was entitled “CJEU case-law. A Few Observations on Recent CJEU Case Law with Attention for Some Aspects of Logic and Argumentation Theory.” The presentation was given during the Dialog Internationales Familienrecht 2023 at the University of Münster. This presentation builds upon a previous presentation of the Author, “Harmonized interpretation of regimes of judicial cooperation in civil matters?”, which is now also available online.


CJEU case-law. A Few Observations on Recent CJEU Case Law with Attention for Some Aspects of Logic and Argumentation Theory

The presentation focuses on case law of the CJEU regarding international family law, but adopts a broad view, particularly by taking into account also case law outside the field of international family law – especially when issues arise both in the context of international family law and in the context of PIL outside the field of international family law – , and by paying attention to case law of the CJEU outside the pure interpretation of PIL regulations – where a national court  is not asking in its question referred for a preliminary ruling, as such, for an interpretation of a PIL regulation, but the case might, possibly, affect PIL or interrelate with PIL; thus, for example, a recent judgment such as Belgische Staat (Réfugiée mineure mariée), Case C-230/21, regarding a right to family reunification based on Directive 2003/86 was also considered in the analysis.

While presenting case law of the CJEU in PIL matters, the presentation  particularly aimed to explore some aspects of methodology, reasoning, deductions and “consistency”. The research thus presents some aspects of methodology of interpretation of European law by the CJEU – regarding methods the CJEU is using to interpret European law -, as well as some issues of analysis of case law of the CJEU – whereby a case of the CJEU subsequently raises questions regarding its content and reasoning -, and some questions regarding possible further deductions based on the case law of the CJEU. The presentation does not pretend any exhaustiveness in this regard, but rather explores and presents some of these aspects, looking at recent cases of the CJEU.

The PowerPoint of the presentation is available here. A version of this PowerPoint including also an extended version thereof is available here.


Harmonized interpretation of regimes of judicial cooperation in civil matters?

The presentation of 29 April 2023 continued on some aspects that were presented in a discussion of case law of the CJEU at the “Lugano Experts Meeting” in June 2022. The  Lugano Experts Meeting 2022 was organised in Bern. The previous Lugano Experts Meeting had taken place in 2017.

The presentation at the Lugano Experts Meeting 2022, on 1 June 2022, essentially concerns case law of the CJEU between 2017 and 2022. It discusses issues of harmonised interpretation of regimes of judicial cooperation in civil matters. It includes some notes on case law of the CJEU regarding the Lugano convention 2007, the Brussels 1 bis regulation, and several second generation regulations such as the European Enforcement Order Regulation, the European Order for Payment Procedure Regulation, and the European Small Claims Procedure Regulation.

As a matter of fact, one may observe a wide range of instruments that are indicated as instruments of “Judicial cooperation in civil matters” (Chapter 3 of Title V of the Treaty on the Functioning on the European Union), interpreted in a continuous stream of decisions (judgments and orders) by the CJEU. The presentation of case law of the CJEU at the Lugano experts meeting offers, inter alia, a discussion of issues of (in)consistency and influence/interaction between regimes, of giving or not a harmonised interpretation, of making possible deductions from a judgment in one context to another context. The relevance thereof is presented particularly in light of preliminary questions to the CJEU, with attention for article 53, paragraph 2, and article 99 of the Rules of Procedure of the Court. Issues and questions arising thereby include, inter alia, the following: what are national judges “supposed to know already” when reflecting about asking a preliminary question to the CJEU; how wide should the CJEU’s field of vision be when assessing whether a question should be answered by order of by judgment, and when deciding about the content of the judgment – taking thereby or not into account the interpretation that has already been given in the context of another instrument.

The PowerPoint of this presentation is available here.


*Any view expressed in these presentations is the personal opinion of the author.

Friendly reminder: Lecture on Private International Law and Voices of Children, organized in cooperation with ConflictofLaws.net

This is a friendly reminder to our co-organised event on next Thursday, free admissions can be registered here.

Online event

When making decisions, adults should think about how their decisions will affect children. Recent years have witnessed, in private international law cases and legislation, the protection of children is increasingly mingled with gender, indigenous issues, refugees, violence, war, surrogacy technology, etc. This is evidenced by the US Supreme Court 2022 judgment Golan v. Saada, the Australian case Secretary, Department of Communities & Justice v Bamfield, the 2023 German Constitutional Court decision, the Chinese Civil Codethe Australia Family Law (Child Abduction Convention) Amendment (Family Violence) Regulations 2022, and developments at the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH Children Conventions) and the United Nations (Convention on the Rights of the Child and its additional Protocols).

On this International Children’s Day, let us join this CAPLUS webinar in cooperation with conflictoflaws.net and American Society of International Law Private International Law Interest Group to hear voices of children in private international law.


  • Ms. Anna Mary Coburn

After 22-years of public service as a U.S. Department of State Attorney-Advisor for Children’s Issues as well as a USAID Regional Legal Advisor/Senior Advisor for Children/Youth in Conflict, Anna has transitioned to practicing international family law with a focus on child rights cases and issues.

  • Mr. Philippe Lortie

Philippe is co-head of the International Family and Child Protection Law Division at the Hague Conference on Private International Law Permanent Bureau and has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of child protection.

  • Dr. Miranda Kaye

Dr Miranda Kaye is an academic at the Faculty of Law in the University of Technology Sydney in Australia and a member of Hague Mothers, a project aiming to end the injustices created by the Hague Child Abduction Convention. She also has experience in the public service (Law Commission of England and Wales) and as a practicing solicitor (family law in the UK).

  • Professor Lukas Rademacher

Lukas is a Professor of Private Law, Private International Law, and Comparative Law in Kiel, Germany. He studied law at the Universities of Düsseldorf and Oxford, and received his PhD at the University of Münster. He wrote his postdoctoral thesis at the University of Cologne.

  • Ms. Haitao Ye

Haitao is a lawyer at the Shanghai Office of the Beijing Dacheng Law LLP specializing in marriage and family dispute resolution, family wealth inheritance and management. She is a former experienced judge in civil and commercial trials at the Shanghai Pudong New District People’s Court in China.


• Dr. Jie (Jeanne) Huang (Associate Professor at Sydney Law School, University of Sydney)


Thursday 1 June, 6-7.30pm AEST

(4-5.30am Washington D.C./9-10:30am London/10-11.30am the Hague/4-5.30pm Beijing)

RSVP now your free ticket here.


This event is proudly co-presented by the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney, conflictoflaws.net and the American Society of International Law Private International Law Interest Group.

English Court Judgment refused (again) enforcement by Dubai Courts

In a recent decision, the Dubai Supreme Court (DSC) confirmed that enforcing foreign judgments in the Emirate could be particularly challenging. In this case, the DSC ruled against the enforcement of an English judgment on the ground that the case had already been decided by Dubai courts by a judgment that became final and conclusive (DSC, Appeal No. 419/2023 of 17 May 2023). The case presents many peculiarities and deserves a closer look as it reinforces the general sentiment that enforcing foreign judgments – especially those rendered in non-treaty jurisdictions – is fraught with many challenges that render the enforcement process very long … and uncertain. One needs also to consider whether some of the recent legal developments are likely to have an impact on the enforcement practice in Dubai and the UAE in general.


The case

 1) Facts 

The case’s underlying facts show that a dispute arose out of a contractual relationship concerning the investment and subscription of shares in the purchase of a site located in London for development and resale. The original English decision shows that the parties were, on the one hand, two Saudi nationals (defendants in the UAE proceedings; hereinafter, “Y1 and 2”), and, on the other hand, six companies incorporated in Saudi Arabia, Anguilla, and England (plaintiffs in the UAE proceedings, hereinafter “X et al.”). The English decision also indicates that it was Y1 and 2 who brought the action against X et al. but lost the case. According to the Emirati records, in 2013, X et al. were successful in obtaining (1) a judgment from the English High Court ordering Y1 and 2 to pay a certain amount of money, including interests and litigation costs, and, in 2015, (2) an order from the same court ordering the payment of the some additional accumulated interests (hereinafter collectively “English judgment”). In 2017, X et al. sought the enforcement of the English judgment in Dubai.

2) The Enforcement Odyssey…

a) First Failed Attempt

i) Dubai Court of First Instance (DCFI)

First, X et al. brought an action to enforce the English judgment before the DCFI in accordance with the applicable rules in force at the time of the action (former art. 235 of the 1992 Federal Civil Procedure Act [“1992 FCPA”]). Based on well-established case law, the DCFI rules as follows: (i) in the absence of an applicable treaty, reciprocity should be established (interestingly, in casu, the DCFI considered that the UAE-UK bilateral convention on judicial assistance could not serve as a basis for enforcement since it lacked provisions on mutual recognition and enforcement); (ii) reciprocity can be established by showing that the enforcement requirements in the rendering State are “the same (identical) or less restrictive” compared to those found in the UAE; (iii) it was incumbent on the party seeking enforcement to submit proof of the content of the foreign law pursuant to the methods of proof admitted in the UAE so that the court addressed could compare the enforcement requirements in both countries. Considering that X et al. had failed to establish reciprocity with the United Kingdom (UK), the DCFI refused the enforcement of the English judgment (DCFI, Case No. 574/2017 of 28 November 2017).

X et al. appealed to the Dubai Court of Appeal.


ii) Dubai Court of Appeal (DCA)

Before the DCA, X et al. sought to establish reciprocity with the UK by submitting evidence on the procedural rules applicable in England. However, the DCA dismissed the appeal on the ground that the English court did not have jurisdiction. The DCA started first by confirming a longstanding position of Dubai courts, according to which the foreign court’s jurisdiction should be denied if it is established that the UAE courts had international jurisdiction, even when the jurisdiction of the rendering court could be justified based on its own rules; and that any agreement to the contrary should be declared null and void. Applying these principles to the case, the DCA found that Y1 and 2 were domiciled in Dubai. Therefore, since the international jurisdiction of Dubai courts was established, the DCA found that the English court lacked indirect jurisdiction (DCA, Appeal No. 10/2018 of 27 November 2018).

Dissatisfied with the result, X et al. appealed to the Supreme Court.


iii) Dubai Supreme Court (DSC)

Before the DSC, X et al. argued that English courts had jurisdiction since the contractual relationship originated in England; the case concerned contracts entered into and performed in England; the parties had agreed on the exclusive jurisdiction of English court and that it was Y1 and 2 who initially brought the action against them in England. However, the DSC, particularly insensitive to the arguments put forward by X et al., reiterated its longstanding position that the rendering court’s indirect jurisdiction would be denied whenever the direct jurisdiction of UAE courts could be justified on any ground admitted under UAE law (DSC, Appeal No. 52/2019 of 18 April 2019).


b) Second Failed Attempt

The disappointing outcome of the case did not discourage X et al. from trying their luck again, knowing that the enforcement regime had since been (slightly) amended. Indeed, in 2018, the applicable rules – originally found in the 1992 FCPA – were moved to the 2018 Executive Regulation No. 57 of the 1992 FCPA (as subsequently amended notably by the 2021 Cabinet Decision No. 75. Later, the enforcement rules were reintroduced in the new FCPA enacted in 2022 and entered into effect in January 2023 [“2022 FCPA”]). The new rules did not fundamentally modify the existing enforcement regime but introduced two important changes.

The first concerns the enforcement procedure. According to old rules (former Art. 235 of the 1992 FCPA), the party seeking to enforce a foreign judgment needed to bring an ordinary action before the DCFI.  This procedure was replaced by a more expeditious one consisting in filing a petition for an “order on motion” to the newly created Execution Court (Art. 85(2) of the 2018 Executive Regulation, now the new Art. 222(2) of the 2022 FCPA).

The second concerns indirect jurisdiction. According to the old rules (former Art. 235 of the 1992 FCPA), the enforcement of a foreign judgment should be denied if (1) UAE courts had international jurisdiction over the dispute; and (2) the rendering court did not have jurisdiction according to (a) its own rules of international jurisdiction and (b) its rules on domestic/internal jurisdiction. Now, Art. 85(2)(a) of the 2018 Executive Regulation (new Art. 222(2)(a) of the 2022 FCPA) explicitly provides that the enforcement of the foreign judgment will be refused if the UAE courts have “exclusive” jurisdiction.

Based on these new rules, X et al. applied in 2022 to the Execution Court for an order to enforce the English judgment, but the application was rejected. X et al. appealed before the DCA. However, unexpectedly, the DCA ruled in their favour and declared the English judgment enforceable. Eventually, Y1 and 2 appealed to DSC. They argued, inter alia, that X et al. had already brought an enforcement action that was dismissed by a judgment that is no longer subject to any form of appeal. The DSC agreed. It considered that X et al. had already brought the same action against the same parties and having the same object and that the said action was dismissed by an irrevocable judgment. Therefore, X et al. should be prevented from bringing a new action, the purpose of which was the re-examination of what had already been decided (DSC, Appeal No. 419/2023 of 17 May 2023).



1) The case is interesting in many regards. First, it demonstrates the difficulty of enforcing foreign judgments in the UAE in general and Dubai in particular. Indeed, UAE courts (notably Dubai courts) have often refused to enforce foreign judgments, in particular those rendered in non-treaty jurisdictions, based on the following grounds:

i) Reciprocity (see, e.g., DSC, Appeal No. 269/2005 of 26 February 2006 [English judgment]; DSC, Appeal No. 92/2015 of 9 July 2015 [Dutch judgment (custody)]; DSC, Appeal No. 279/2015 of 25 February 2016 [English judgment (dissolution of marriage)]; DSC, Appeal No. 517/2015 of 28 August 2016 [US. Californian judgment]);

ii) Indirect jurisdiction (see, e.g., DSC, Appeal No. 114/1993 of 26 September 1993 [Hong Kong judgment]; DSC, Appeal No. 240/2017 of 27 July 2017 [Congo judgment]); and

iii) Public policy, especially in the field of family law, and usually based on the incompatibility of the foreign judgment with Sharia principles (see, e.g., DSC, Appeal No. 131/2020 of 13 August 2020 [English judgment ordering the distribution of matrimonial property based on the principle of community of property]. See also, Federal Supreme Court, Appeal No. 193/24 of 10 April 2004 [English judgment conferring the custody of a Muslim child to a non-Muslim mother]; Abu Dhabi Supreme Court, Appeal No. 764/2011 of 14 December 2011 [English judgment order the payment of life maintenance after divorce]). Outside the field of family law, the issue of public policy was raised in particular with respect to the consistency of interests with Sharia principles, especially in the context of arbitration (see, e.g., DSC, Appeal No. 132/2012 of 18 September 2012 finding that compound and simple interests awarded by an LCIA arbitral award did not violate Sharia. But, c.f. Federal Supreme Court, Appeal No. 57/24 of 21 March 2006, allowing the payment of simple interests only, but not compound interests.).


Second, the case shows that the enforcement process in the UAE, in general, and in Dubai, in particular, is challenging, and the outcome is unpredictable. This can be confirmed by comparing this case with some other similar cases. For example, in one case, the party seeking enforcement (hereinafter “X”) unsuccessfully sought the enforcement of an American (Nevada) judgment against the judgment debtor (hereinafter “Y”). The DCFI first refused to enforce the American judgment for lack of jurisdiction (Y’s domicile was in Dubai). The decision was confirmed on appeal, but on the ground that X failed to establish reciprocity. Instead of appealing to the DSC, X decided to bring a new action on the merits based on the foreign judgment. The lower courts (DCFI and DCA) dismissed the action on the ground that it was, in fact, an action for the enforcement of a foreign judgment that had already been rejected by an irrevocable judgment. However, DSC quashed the appealed decision with remand, considering that the object of the two actions was different. Insisting on its position, the DCA (as a court of remand) dismissed the action again. However, on a second appeal, the DSC overturned the contested decision, holding that the foreign judgment was sufficient proof of the existence of Y’s debt. The DSC finally ordered Y to pay the full amount indicated in the foreign judgment with interests (DSC, Appeal No. 125/2017 of 27 April 2017).

However, such an approach is not always easy to pursue, as another case concerning the enforcement of a Singaporean judgment clearly shows. In this case, X (judgment creditor) applied for an enforcement order of a Singaporean judgment. The judgment was rendered in X’s favour in a counterclaim to an action brought in Singapore by Y (the judgment debtor). The Execution Court, however, refused to issue the enforcement order on the ground that there was no treaty between Singapore and the UAE. Instead of filing an appeal, X brought a new action on the merits before the DCFI, using the Singaporean judgment as evidence. Not without surprise, DCFI dismissed the action accepting Y’s argument that the case had already been decided by a competent court in Singapore and, therefore, the foreign judgment was conclusive (DCFI, Case No. 968/2020 of 7 April 2021). Steadfastly determined to obtain satisfaction, X filed a new petition to enforce the Singaporean judgment before the Execution Court, which – this time – was accepted and later upheld on appeal. Y decided to appeal to the DSC. Before the DSC, Y changed strategy and argued that the enforcement of the Singaporean judgment should be refused on the ground that the rendering foreign court lacked jurisdiction! According to Y, Dubai courts had “exclusive” jurisdiction over the subject matter of X’s counterclaim because its domicile (place of business) was in Dubai. However, the DSC rejected this argument and ruled in favour of the enforcement of the Singaporean judgment (DSC, Appeal No. 415/2021 of 30 December 2021).


2) From a different perspective, one would wonder whether the recent developments observed in the UAE could alleviate the rigor of the existing practice. These developments concern, in particular, (i) the standard based on which the jurisdiction of the foreign should be examined and (ii) reciprocity.

(i) Regarding the jurisdiction of the foreign court, the new article 222(2)(a) of the 2022 FCPA (which reproduces the formulation of article 85(2)(a) of the 2018 Executive Regulation introduced in 2018) explicitly states that foreign judgments should be refused enforcement if UAE courts “have exclusive jurisdiction over the dispute in which the foreign judgment was rendered” (emphasis added). The new wording suggests that the foreign court’s indirect jurisdiction would be denied only if UAE courts claim “exclusive” jurisdiction over the dispute. Whether this change would have any impact on the enforcement practice remains to be seen. But one can be quite sceptical since, traditionally, UAE law ignores the distinction between “exclusive” and “concurrent” jurisdiction. In addition, UAE courts have traditionally considered the jurisdiction conferred to them as “mandatory”, thus rendering virtually all grounds of international jurisdiction “exclusive” in nature. (See, e.g., the decision of the Abu Dhabi Supreme Court, Appeal No. 71/2019 of 15 April 2019, in which the Court interpreted the word “exclusive” in a traditional fashion and rejected the recognition of a foreign judgment despite the fact that the rendering court’s jurisdiction was justified based on the treaty applicable to the case. But see contra. DCFI, Case No. 968/2020 of 7 April 2021 op. cit. which announces that a change can be expected in the future).

(ii) Regarding reciprocity, it has been widely reported that on 13 September 2022, the UAE Ministry of Justice (MOJ) sent a letter to Dubai Courts (i.e. the department responsible for the judiciary in the Emirate of Dubai) concerning the application of the reciprocity rule. According to this letter, the MOJ considered that reciprocity with the UK could be admitted since English courts had accepted to enforce UAE judgments (de facto reciprocity). Although this letter – which lacks legal force – has been widely hailed as announcing a turning point for the enforcement of foreign judgments in general and English judgments in particular, its practical values remain to be seen. Indeed, one should not lose sight that, according to the traditional position of Dubai courts, reciprocity can be established if the party seeking enforcement shows that the rendering State’s enforcement rules are identical to those found in the UAE or less restrictive (see DSC, Appeal No. 517/2015 of 28 August 2016, op. cit.). For this, the party seeking enforcement needs to prove the content of the rendering Stat’s law on the enforcement of foreign judgments so that the court can compare the enforcement requirement in the state of origin and in the UAE. Dubai courts usually require the submission of a complete copy of the foreign provisions applicable in the State of origin duly certified and authenticated. The submission of expert opinions (e.g., King’s Counsel opinion) or other documents showing that the enforcement of UAE judgments is possible was considered insufficient to establish reciprocity (see DSC, Appeal No. 269/2005 of 26 February 2006, op. cit.). The fact that the courts of the rendering State accepted to enforce a UAE judgment does not seem to be relevant as the courts usually do not mention it as a possible way to establish reciprocity. Future developments will show whether Dubai courts will admit de facto reciprocity and under which conditions.


Finally, the complexity of the enforcement of foreign judgments in Dubai has led to the emergence of an original practice whereby foreign judgment holders are tempted to commence enforcement proceedings before the DIFC (Dubai International Financial Center) courts (AKA Dubai offshore courts) and then proceed with the execution of that judgment in Dubai (AKA onshore courts). However, this is a different aspect of the problem of enforcing foreign judgments in Dubai, which needs to be addressed in a separate post or paper. (On this issue, see, e.g., Harris Bor, “Conduit Enforcement”, in Rupert Reed & Tom Montagu-Smith, DIFC Courts Practice (Edward Elgar, 2020), pp. 30 ff; Joseph Chedrawe, “Enforcing Foreign Judgments in the UAE: The Uncertain Future of the DIFC Courts as a Conduit Jurisdiction”, Dispute Resolution International, Vol. 11(2), 2017, pp. 133 ff.)

Montenegro’s legislative implementation of the EAPO Regulation: setting the stage in civil judicial cooperation

Carlos Santaló Goris, Lecturer at the European Institute of Public Administration in Luxembourg, offers an analysis of an upcoming legislative reform in Montenegro concerning the European Account Preservation Order

In 2010, Montenegro formally became a candidate country to join the European Union. To reach that objective, Montenegro has been adopting several reforms to incorporate within its national legal system the acquis communautaire. These legislative reforms have also addressed civil judicial cooperation on civil matters within the EU. The Montenegrin Code of Civil Procedure (Zakon o parni?nom postupku) now includes specific provisions on the 2007 Service Regulation, the 2001 Evidence Regulation, the European Payment Order (‘EPO’), and the European Small Claims Procedure (‘ESCP’). Furthermore, the Act on Enforcement and Securing of Claims (Zakon o izvršenju I obezbe?enju) also contains provisions on the EPO, the ESCP, and the European Enforcement Order (‘EEO’). While none of the referred EU instruments require formal transposition into national law, the fact that it is now embedded within national legislation can facilitate its application and understanding in the context of the national civil procedural system.

Currently, the Montenegrin legislator is about to approve another amendment of the Act on Enforcement and Securing of Claims, this time concerning the European Account Preservation Order Regulation (‘EAPO Regulation’). This instrument, which entered into force in 2017, allows the provisional attachment of debtors’ bank accounts in cross-border civil and commercial claims. It also allows creditors  with a title at the time of application to apply for an EAPO. According to the Montenegrin legislator, the purpose of this reform is to harmonize the national legislation with the EAPO, as well as creating ‘the necessary conditions for its smooth application’.

In terms of substance, the specific provisions on the EAPO focus primarily on identifying the different authorities involved in the EAPO procedure from the moment it is granted to its enforcement. In broad terms, the content of the provisions corresponds to the information that Member States were required to provide to the Commission by 18 July 2016, and that can be found in Article 50. One provision establishes which are the competent courts to issue the EAPO and to decide on the appeal against a rejected EAPO application. Regarding the appeal procedure, it establishes that creditors have to submit their appeal within the five following days of the date the decision dismissing the EAPO application is rendered. Such a deadline contradicts the text of the EAPO Regulation, which sets a 30-day deadline to submit the appeal, which cannot be shortened by national legislation. This is an aspect that has been uniformly established by the EU legislator, thus it does not depend on national law (Article 46(1)).

Regarding the debtors’ remedies to revoke, modify or terminate the enforcement of an EAPO contained Articles 33, 34 and 35, the reform contains a specific provision to determine which are the competent courts. Interestingly, it also establishes  a 5-day deadline to appeal the decision resulting from the request for a remedy. In this case, the EAPO Regulation does not establish any deadline, giving Member States discretion to establish such deadline. The short deadline chosen contrasts with the 15 days established in Luxembourg (Article 685-5(6) Nouveau Code de Procedure Civile), the one-month deadline chosen by the German legislator (Section 956 Zivilprozessordnung).

Concerning the enforcement phase of the EAPO, it determines which are the authorities responsible for the enforcement. It also acknowledges that there are certain amounts exempted from attachment of an EAPO under Montenegrin law.

Last but not least, the reform also tackles the information mechanism to trace the debtors’ bank accounts. The information authority will be Montenegro’s Central Bank (Centralna Banka). The method that will be employed to trace the debtors’ bank accounts consists of asking banks to disclose whether they hold the bank accounts. This method corresponds to the first of the methods listed in Article 14(5) that information authorities can use to trace the debtors’ bank accounts.

The entry into force of these new EAPO provisions is postponed until Montenegro joins the EU.  While these provisions might seem rather generic, they clearly reveal Montenegro’s commitment to facilitate the application of the EAPO within its legal system and make it more familiar for national judges and practitioners that will have to deal with it.


The Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria’s final decision in the Pancharevo case: Bulgaria is not obliged to issue identity documents for baby S.D.K.A. as she is not Bulgarian (but presumably Spanish)

This post was written bij Helga Luku, PhD researcher at the University of Antwerp.

On 1 March 2023, the Supreme Administrative Court of the Republic of Bulgaria issued its final decision no. 2185, 01.03.2023 (see here an English translation by Nadia Rusinova) in the Pancharevo case. After an appeal from the mayor of the Pancharevo district, the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria ruled that the decision of the court of first instance, following the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in this case, is “valid and admissible, but incorrect”. It stated that the child is not Bulgarian due to the lack of maternal ties between the child and the Bulgarian mother, and thus there is no obligation for the Bulgarian authorities to issue a birth certificate. Hereafter, I will examine the legal reasoning behind its ruling.


On 2 October 2020, the Administrative Court of the City of Sofia in Bulgaria requested a preliminary ruling from the CJEU in the case C-490/20 V.M.A. v. Stolichna Obshtina, Rayon ‘Pancharevo’. It sought clarification on the interpretation of several legal provisions. Specifically, the court asked whether a Member State is obliged, under Article 4(2) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), Articles 20 and 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and Articles 7, 24, and 45 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the Charter), to issue a birth certificate to a child, who is a national of that Member State, in order to obtain the identity document. This inquiry arose with respect to a child, S.D.K.A., born in Spain, whose birth certificate was issued by Spanish authorities, in accordance with their national law. The birth certificate identifies a Bulgarian national, V.M.A., and her wife, a British national, as the child’s mothers, without specifying which of the two women gave birth to the child.

The CJEU decided that Article 4(2) TEU, Articles 20 and 21 TFEU and Articles 7, 24 and 45 of the Charter, read in conjunction with Article 4(3) of Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, must be interpreted as meaning that, in the case of a child, being a minor, who is a Union citizen and whose birth certificate, issued by the competent authorities of the host Member State, designates as that child’s parents two persons of the same sex, the Member State of which that child is a national is obliged

  • to issue to that child an identity card or a passport without requiring a birth certificate to be drawn up beforehand by its national authorities, and
  • to recognise, as is any other Member State, the document from the host Member State that permits that child to exercise, with each of those two persons, the child’s right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

The trajectory of the case within the Bulgarian courts

On the basis of the decision of the CJEU in the Pancharevo case, the referring court, i.e. the Administrative Court of the City of Sofia obliged the authorities of the Pancharevo district to draw up the birth certificate of S.D.K.A., indicating two women as her parents.

The mayor of the Pancharevo district then filed an appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria, contending that the decision is inadmissible and incorrect.

Based on its considerations, the Supreme Court held that the decision of the court of first instance is “valid and admissible but incorrect”. Its rationale is premised on several arguments. Firstly, it referred to Article 8 of the Bulgarian Citizenship Law, which provides that a Bulgarian citizen by origin is everybody of whom at least one of the parents is a Bulgarian citizen. In the present case, the Supreme Court deemed it crucial to ascertain the presence of the biological link of the child, S.D.K.A. with the Bulgarian mother, V.M.A. Thus, it referred to Article 60 of the Bulgarian Family Code, according to which the maternal origin shall be established by birth; this means that the child’s mother is the woman who gave birth to the child, including in cases of assisted reproduction. Therefore, the Supreme Court proclaimed in its ruling that the Bulgarian authorities could not determine whether the child was a Bulgarian citizen since the applicant refused to provide information about the child’s biological mother. Consequently, the authorities could not issue a birth certificate and register the child’s civil status. Furthermore, in a written defence presented to the court of first instance by the legal representative of V.M.A., it was provided that S.D.K.A. was born to K.D.K., the British mother, and the British authorities had also refused to issue a passport to the child, as she was not a British citizen.

The Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria ruled that the child is not a Bulgarian citizen, and the conclusion of the CJEU that the child is a Bulgarian citizen and thus falls within the scope of EU law (Articles 20 and 21 TFEU and Article 4 of Directive 2004/38/EC) is inaccurate. According to the Supreme Court’s legal reasoning, these provisions do not establish a right to claim the granting of Bulgarian citizenship, and Union citizenship is a prerequisite for enjoying free movement rights.

In these circumstances, the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria held that the refusal to issue a birth certificate does not result in the deprivation of citizenship or the violation of the child’s best interests. It referred to the law of the host country, Spain. Article 17 of the Spanish Civil Code of July 24, 1889, provides that Spanish citizens by origin are persons born in Spain to parents:

  • who are foreigners if at least one of the parents was born in Spain (except for the children of diplomatic or consular officials accredited to Spain),
  • who are both stateless, or
  • neither of whose national laws confer nationality on the child.

According to this Article, the Supreme Court reasoned that since the national laws of the parents named in the child’s birth certificate (i.e. Bulgarian and UK legislation), issued in Spain, do not grant citizenship to the child, baby S.D.K.A. must be considered a Spanish citizen by virtue of this provision.

The applicability of Spanish law was expressly confirmed by the Spanish Government during the hearing at the CJEU, provided in paragraph 53 of Advocate General Kokott’s Opinion, stating that if the child could claim neither Bulgarian nor UK nationality, she would be entitled to claim Spanish nationality. Thus, the Supreme Court ruled that the child is Spanish and averted the risk of leaving the child stateless.

Is the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria in conformity with EU law interpretation?

In light of the ruling of the CJEU on the Pancharevo case, certain aspects might have required further scrutiny and more attention from the Supreme Court. Paragraph 68 of the Pancharevo judgment provides:

A child, being a minor, whose status as a Union citizen is not established and whose birth certificate, issued by the competent authorities of a Member State, designates as her parents two persons of the same-sex, one of whom is a Union citizen, must be considered, by all Member States, a direct descendant of that Union citizen within the meaning of Directive 2004/38 for the purposes of the exercise of the rights conferred in Article 21(1) TFEU and the secondary legislation relating thereto.”

According to this paragraph, it can be inferred that Bulgaria and other Member States must recognize a child with at least one Union citizen parent as a direct descendant of that Union citizen. This paragraph has important implications as regards the establishment of the parent-child relationship. The CJEU, in its case law (C-129/18 SM v Entry Clearance Officer), has firmly established that the term “direct descendant” should be construed broadly, encompassing both biological and legal parent-child relationships. Hence, as a family member of the Bulgarian mother, according to Article 2 (2)(c) of Directive 2004/38, baby S.D.K.A., should enjoy free movement and residence rights as a family member of a Union citizen. In its decision, however, the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria did not conform to the CJEU’s expansive understanding of the parent-child relationship. Therefore, its persistence in relying on its national law to establish parenthood exclusively on the basis of biological ties appears to contradict the interpretation of EU law by the CJEU.

The Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria seems relieved to discover that the child probably has Spanish nationality. It can be doubted, however, at what conclusion the court would have arrived if the child were not recognized as Spanish under Spanish nationality laws, especially considering that the child was not granted nationality under UK legislation either. In such a scenario, the Supreme Court might have explored alternative outcomes to prevent the child from becoming stateless and to ensure that the child’s best interests are always protected.

UK Supreme Court in Jalla v Shell: the claim in Bonga spill is time barred

The UK Supreme Court ruled that the cause of action in the aftermath of the 2011 Bonga offshore oil spill accrued at the moment when the oil reached the shore. This was a one-off event and not a continuing nuisance. The Nigerian landowners’ claim against Shell was thus barred by the limitation periods under applicable Nigerian law (Jalla and another v Shell International Trading and Shipping Company and another [2023] UKSC 16, on appeal from [2021] EWCA Civ 63).

On 10 May 2023, the UK Supreme Court has ruled in one of the cases in the series of legal battles started against Shell in the English courts in the aftermath of the Bonga spill. The relevant facts are summarized by the UK Supreme Court as follows at [6] and [7]:

  1. (…) The Bonga oil field is located approximately 120 km off the coast of Nigeria. The infrastructure and facilities at the Bonga oil field include a Floating Production Storage and Offloading unit (“FPSO”), which is linked to a Single Point Mooring buoy (“SPM”) by three submersible flexible flowlines. The oil is extracted from the seabed via the FPSO, through the flowlines to the SPM, and then on to tankers. The Bonga Spill resulted from a rupture in one of the flexible flowlines connecting the FPSO and the SPM. The leak occurred overnight during a cargo operation when crude oil was being transferred from the Bonga FPSO through the SPM and onwards onto a waiting oil tanker on (…) 20 December 2011. The cargo operation and the leaking were stopped after about six hours.
  2. As a result of the Bonga Spill, it is estimated that the equivalent of at least 40,000 barrels of crude oil leaked into the ocean. The claimants allege that, following its initial escape, the oil migrated from the offshore Bonga oil field to reach the Nigerian Atlantic shoreline’.

Some 27,830 Nigerian individuals and 457 communities stated that the spill had a devastating effect of the oil on the fishing and farming industries and caused damage to their land. They sued Shell in English courts. The claim was instituted against International Trading and Shipping Co Ltd (an English company, anchor defendant) and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Co Ltd (a Nigerian company, co-defendant).

The English courts have accepted jurisdiction, as it had happened in several cases based on a comparable set of facts relevant for establishing jurisdiction, as reported earlier on this blog here, here, here, here, and here. The jurisdiction and applicable law in the specific case of Bonga spill litigation have been closely followed inter alia by Geert van Calster here.

The case at hand is an appeal on a part of an earlier rulings. However, unlike some earlier claims, this is not a representative action, as the UK Supreme Court explicitly states at [8]. The crux of the ruling is the type of tort that the Bonga spill represents under Nigerian law, applicable to that case (on applicable law, see Jalla & Anor v Shell International Trading and Shipping Company Ltd & Anor [2023] EWHC 424 (TCC), at [348] ff.).

According to the Nigerian party, the spill gave rise to ‘a continuing cause of action because there is a continuing nuisance so that the limitation period runs afresh from day to day,’ as some oil has not been cleaned up and remained on the coast. Shell submitted, on the contrary, that the spill was a one-off event, that the cause of action accrued with the coast was flooded, and that the claim was time barred under the relevant limitation statutes. The lower courts and the UK Supreme court agreed with Shell. They rule that the cause of action had accrued at the moment when the spilled oil had reached the shore. This occurred some weeks after the spill. As a result, at the moment of instituting the proceedings, the claim was time barred.

Noteworthy is the detail in which the UK Supreme Court discusses the authorities on the tort of nuisance under the heading ‘4. Four cases in the House of Lords or Supreme Court’ at [17] ff. This degree of detail is certainly not surprising, due to the relevance of English law for the Nigerian legal system. In the meantime, it contrasts with the approach that would be adopted by a civil law tradition’s court, if the case was brought under their jurisdiction. Firstly, in the civil law traditions, a claim governed by foreign law reaches the highest judicial authority only in exceptional cases. Secondly, if – as in this case – there were ‘no prior case in English law that has decisively rejected or accepted the argument on continuing nuisance put forward by the claimants in this case,’ a continental court might have come to the same conclusion, but finding the law would perhaps be much less business as usual for a continental court than for the UK Supreme Court.

The footage of the hearings available on the website of the UK Supreme Court is most enlightening on the Court’s approach and reasoning.

Data on Choice-of-Court Clause Enforcement in US

The United States legal system is immensely complex. There are state courts and federal courts, state statutes and federal statutes, state common law and federal common law. When I imagine a foreign lawyer trying to explain this system to a foreign client, my heart fills with pity.

This feeling of pity is compounded when I imagine this same lawyer trying to advise her client as to whether a choice-of-court clause will be enforced by a court in the United States. The law on this subject is complicated. It is, moreover, not easy to determine how it is applied in practice. Are there differences in clause enforcement rates across the states? Across federal circuits? Do state courts enforce these clauses at the same rate as federal courts? Until recently, there was no data that would allow a foreign lawyer – or a U.S. lawyer, for that matter – to answer any of these questions.

Over the past several years, I have authored or co-authored several empirical articles that seek to answer the questions posed above. This post provides a summary of the data gathered for these articles. All of the cases referenced involve outbound choice-of-court clauses, i.e. clauses that select a jurisdiction other than the one where the suit was filed. Readers interested in the data collection process, the caveats to which the data is subject, or other methodological issues should consult the articles and their appendices. This post first describes state court practice. It then describes federal court practice. It concludes with a brief discussion comparing the two.


State Courts

Most state courts have held that choice-of-court clauses are presumptively enforceable. These courts will not, however, enforce a clause when it is unreasonable or contrary to public policy. A clause may be deemed unreasonable when enforcement would result in duplicative litigation, when the plaintiff cannot obtain relief in the chosen forum, when the plaintiff was never provided with notice of the clause, when the chosen forum lacks any relationship to the parties, or when litigation in the chosen forum would be so gravely difficult and inconvenient that the plaintiff would be deprived of her day in court. A clause is contrary to public policy when a statute or a judicial decision declares that enforcement is inconsistent with the policy of the state.

The chart below lists the enforcement rate in state courts with at least fifteen judicial decisions between 1972 and 2019 and at least ten judicial decisions between 2010 and 2020. These rates were calculated by dividing (1) the total number of cases where a clause was enforced by (2) the total number of cases where the court considered the issue of enforceability.


State Enforcement Rate


Enforcement Rate


California 80% 78%
Connecticut 71% 88%
Delaware 89% 100%
Florida 78% 100%
Georgia 67% 54%
Illinois 74% 83%
Louisiana 78% 70%
Michigan 78% 82%
New Jersey 63% 64%
New York 79% 76%
Ohio 78% 73%
All States 77% 79%

Between 1972 and 2019, state courts enforced choice-of-court clauses in 77% of cases. Between 2010 and 2020, they enforced them in 79% of cases. The state courts in Florida and Connecticut have become more likely to enforce in recent years. The state courts in Georgia have become less likely to enforce in recent years. The state courts in California, New Jersey, and New York have been relatively consistent in their enforcement practice over time.

These data indicate that while there are significant differences in enforcement rates in state court across the United States, choice-of-court clauses are given effect in most cases.

Federal Courts

Like state courts, federal courts take the position that choice-of-court clauses are presumptively enforceable. Like state courts, federal courts will not enforce these clauses when they are unreasonable or contrary to public policy. Unlike state courts, federal courts do not apply state law to decide the issue of enforceability. They apply federal common law. This means that the federal courts are free to adopt their own view of whether a clause is unreasonable or contrary to public policy without considering prior state court decisions.

In theory, the fact that the federal courts apply federal common law to this question should produce uniform results across the nation. In fact, there are notable variations in enforcement rates across federal district courts sitting in different circuits, as shown in the chart below.





Enforcement Rate

All Federal Cases


Eleventh Circuit 95%
Third Circuit 92%
Second Circuit 91%
Sixth Circuit 91%
Fifth Circuit 90%
Fourth Circuit 90%
All Circuits 88%
Seventh Circuit 87%
First Circuit 84%
Eighth Circuit 85%
Tenth Circuit 83%
Ninth Circuit 81%

The federal district courts sitting in the Eleventh Circuit, which includes Florida, have the highest enforcement rate. The federal district courts sitting in the Ninth Circuit, which includes California, have the lowest enforcement rate. On the whole, a plaintiff arguing that a choice-of-court clause is unenforceable would rather be in federal court in California than in Florida. Even in California, however, these clauses are still enforced by federal courts in the overwhelming majority of cases.

Comparing State and Federal Courts

Federal courts sitting in diversity enforce choice-of-court clauses at a rate that is equal to or greater than the rate of geographically proximate state courts in every federal circuit. In the Fourth and Eighth Circuits, the enforcement gap is particularly large, as shown in the chart below.


Circuit Enforcement Rate

State Cases


Enforcement Rate

Federal Diversity Cases


Fourth Circuit 67% 96% 29%
Eighth Circuit 64% 88% 24%
Sixth Circuit 73% 93% 20%
Third Circuit 76% 95% 19%
Eleventh Circuit 78% 96% 18%
Second Circuit 78% 94% 16%
First Circuit 79% 94% 15%
Overall 79% 90% 11%
Ninth Circuit 78% 85% 7%
Tenth Circuit 86% 91% 5%
Fifth Circuit 90% 90% 0%
Seventh Circuit 85% 85% 0%

These data suggest that a defendant seeking to enforce a choice-of-court clause should try to remove the case to federal court. These courts are, on average, more likely to enforce a clause than their state counterparts. The data further suggest that plaintiffs seeking to invalidate a choice-of-court clause should strive to keep the case in state court. These courts are, on average, less likely to enforce a clause than their federal counterparts. The incentives for forum shopping as between state and federal court when it comes to choice-of-court clauses raise serious concerns under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Erie Railroad Company v. Tompkins, as discussed at greater length here,

There are two main reasons why the enforcement rate is higher in federal court. First, some federal courts applying federal law refuse to give effect to state statutes that invalidate choice-of-court clauses. When these invalidating statutes are applied by state courts and ignored by federal courts, the result is a sizable enforcement gap. The Supreme Court recently denied cert in a case that would have resolved the question of whether federal courts should give effect to state statutes that invalidate choice-of-court clauses.

Second, federal courts applying federal law are less willing than state courts applying state law to conclude that a clause is unreasonable. Over many cases decided over many years, state court judges have shown themselves to be more sympathetic to plaintiffs seeking to avoid choice-of-court clauses. Federal courts, by comparison, have enforced clauses in a number of instances where state courts probably would have refused on unreasonableness grounds.


The law of choice-of-court clauses in the United States is sprawling and complicated. Until recently, there were no empirical studies addressing how the courts applied this law in practice. The information presented above is the product of hundreds of hours of work reading thousands of state and federal cases in an attempt to identify patterns and trends.

Readers interested in learning more about state court practice should look here and here. Readers interested in learning more about federal court practice should look here. Readers interested in learning more about the differences between state and federal practice – and the Erie problems generated by these differences – should look here.

[A version of this post is cross-posted at Transnational Litigation Blog.]

Polish Constitutional Court about to review the constitutionality of the jurisdictional immunity of a foreign State?

Written by Zuzanna Nowicka, lawyer at the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and lecturer at Department of Logic and Legal Argumentation at University of Warsaw

In the aftermath of the judgment of the ICJ of 2012 in the case of the Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germany v. Italy: Greece intervening) that needs no presentation here (for details see, in particular, the post by Burkhard Hess), by its judgment of 2014, the Italian Constitutional Court recognized the duty of Italy to comply with the ICJ judgment of 2012 but subjected that duty to the “fundamental principle of judicial protection of fundamental rights” under Italian constitutional law (for a more detailed account of those developments see this post on EAPIL by Pietro Franzina and further references detailed there). In a nutshell, according to the Italian Constitutional Court, the fundamental human rights cannot be automatically and unconditionally sacrificed in each and every case in order to uphold the jurisdiction immunity of a foreign State allegedly responsible for serious international crimes.

Since then, the Italian courts have reasserted their jurisdiction in such cases, in some even going so far as to decide on the substance and award compensation from Germany. The saga continues, as Germany took Italy to the ICJ again in 2022 (for the status of the case pending before the ICJ see here). It even seems not to end there as it can be provocatively argued that this saga has its spin-off currently taking place before the Polish courts.

A.   Setting the scene…

In 2020, a group of members of the Sejm, lower chamber of the Polish Parliament, brought a request for a constitutional review that, in essence, concerns the application of the jurisdictional immunity of the State in the cases pertaining to liability for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The request has been registered under the case number K 25/20 (for details of the, in Polish, see here; the request is available here). This application is identical to an application previously brought by a group of members of the lower chamber of the Parliament in the case K 12/17. This request led to no outcome due to the principle according to which the proceedings not finalized during a given term of the Sejm shall be closed upon the expiration of that term.

This time, however, the Polish Constitutional Court has even set the date of the hearing in the case K 25/20. It is supposed to take place on May 23, 2023.

The present post is not drafted with the ambition of comprehensively evaluating the request for a constitutional review brought before the Polish Constitutional Court. Nor it is intended to speculate on the future decision of that Court and its ramifications. By contrast, while the case is still pending, it seems interesting to provide a brief overview of the request for a constitutional review and present the arguments put forward by the applicants.

Under Polish law, a request for a constitutional review, such as the one in the case K 25/20, can be brought before the Polish Constitutional Court by selected privileged applicants, with no connection to a case pending before Polish courts.

Such a request has to identify the legislation that raise concerns as to its conformity with the Polish constitutional law (“subject of the review”, see point B below) and the relevant provisions of the Polish Constitution of 1997 against which that legislation is to be benchmarked against (“standard of constitutional review”, see point C). Furthermore, the applicant shall identify the issues of constitutional concern that are raised by the said legislation and substantiate its objections by arguments and/or evidence (see point D).


B.   Subject of constitutional review in question

By the request for a constitutional review of 2020, the Polish Constitutional Court is asked to benchmark two provisions of Polish Code of Civil Procedure (hereinafter: “PL CCP”) against the Polish constitutional law, namely Article 1103[7](2) PL CCP and Article 1113 PL CCP.

i) Article 1103[7](2) PL CCP

The first provision, Article 1103[7] PL CCP lays down rules of direct jurisdiction that, in practice, can be of application solely in the cases not falling within the ambit of the rules of direct jurisdiction of the Brussels I bis Regulation. In particular, pursuant to Article 1103[7](2) PL CCP, the Polish courts have jurisdiction with regard to the cases pertaining to the extra-contractual obligations that arose in Poland.

In the request for a constitutional review of 2020, the applicants argue that, according to the settled case law of the Polish Supreme Court, Article 1103[7](2) PL CCP does not cover the torts committed by a foreign State to the detriment of Poland and its nationals. For the purposes of their request, the applicants do focus on the non-contractual liability of a foreign State resulting from war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The applicants claim that, according to the case law of the Polish Supreme Court, such a liability is excluded from the scope of Article 1103[7](2) PL CCP.

Against this background, it has to be noted that the account of the case law of the Polish Supreme Court is not too faithful to its original spirit. Contrary to its reading proposed by the applicants, the Polish Supreme Court does not claim that the scope of application of the rule of direct jurisdiction provided for in Article 1103[7](2) PL CPP is, de lege lata, circumscribed and does not cover the liability of a foreign State for international crimes. In actuality, this can be only seen as the practical effect of the case law of the Polish Supreme Court quoted in the request for a constitutional review. Pursuant to this case law, also with regard to liability for international crimes, the foreign States enjoy jurisdiction immunity resulting from international customary law, which prevents claimants from suing those States before the Polish courts.

ii) Article 1113 PL CPP

The second provision subject to constitutional review is Article 1113 PL CPP, according to which jurisdictional immunity shall be considered by the court ex officio in every phase of the proceedings. If the defendant can rely on the jurisdictional immunity, the court shall reject the claim. According to the applicants, the Polish courts infer from this provision of the PL CPP the right of the foreign States to rely on the jurisdictional immunity with regard to the cases on liability resulting from war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.


C.   Standard of constitutional review (relevant provisions of Polish constitutional law)

In the request for a constitutional review of 2020, four provisions of Polish constitutional law are referred to as the standard of constitutional review, namely:

i) Article 9 of the Polish Constitution of 1997 (“Poland shall respect international law binding upon it”);

according to the applicants, due to the general nature of Article 9, it cannot be deduced thereof that the rules of international customary law are directly binding in Polish domestic legal order. The applicants contend that the Polish Constitution of 1997 lists the sources of law that are binding in Poland. In particular, Article 87 of the Constitution indicates that the sources of law in Poland are the Constitution, statutes, ratified international agreements, and regulations. No mention is made there to the international customary law. Thus, international customary law does not constitute a binding part of the domestic legal order and is not directly applicable in Poland. Rather, Article 9 of the Polish Constitution of 1997 must be understood as providing for the obligation to respect international customary law exclusively “in the sphere of international law”;

ii) Article 21(1) of the Polish Constitution of 1997: “Poland shall protect ownership and the right of succession”,

here, the applicants contend that Article 21(1) covers not only the property currently owned by the individuals, but also property that was lost as a result of the international crimes committed by a foreign State, which, had it not been lost, would have been the subject of inheritance by Polish nationals;

iii) Article 30 of the Polish Constitution of 1997: “The inherent and inalienable dignity of the person shall constitute a source of freedoms and rights of persons and citizens. It shall be inviolable. The respect and protection thereof shall be the obligation of public authorities”,

the applicants infer from Article 30 that the respect and protection of dignity is the duty of public authorities. Such a protection can be guaranteed by creating an institutional and procedural framework, which enables the pursuit of justice against the wrongdoers who have taken actions against human dignity. For the applicants, this is particularly relevant in the case of liability for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity;

iv) Article 45(1) of the Polish Constitution of 1997: “Everyone shall have the right to a fair and public hearing of his case, without undue delay, before a competent, impartial and independent court”,

in short, Article 45(1) enshrines to the right to access to a court; this provision conceptualizes this right as a mean by which the protection of other freedoms and rights guaranteed by the Constitution can be realized; the applicants argue that the jurisdictional immunity of a foreign State is a procedural rule that, in its essence, limits the right to a court. They acknowledge that the right to a court is not an absolute right and it can be subject to some limitations. However, the Constitutional Court should examine whether the limitation resulting from the operation of jurisdiction immunity is proportionate.


D.   Issues and arguments raised by the request for a constitutional review

After having presented the subject of the request and the relevant provisions of Polish constitutional law, the applicants identify the issues of constitutional concern that, in their view, are raised by the jurisdictional immunity of a foreign State upheld via the operation of Article 1103[7](2) PL CCP and Article 1113 PL CCP in the cases on the liability resulting from international crimes. The applicants then set out their arguments to substantiate the objection of non-constitutionality directed at Article 1103[7](2) PL CCP and Article 1113 PL CCP.

The main issue and arguments put forward boil down to the objection that the upholding of the jurisdictional immunity results in the lack of access to a court and infringes the right guaranteed in the Polish Constitution of 1997, as well as enshrined in the international agreements on human rights, ratified by Poland,

  • in this context, first, the applicants reiterate the contention that while ratified international agreements constitute a part of the domestic legal order, this is not the case of the rules of international customary law; furthermore, in order to “reinforce” this contention, a recurring statement appears in the request for a constitutional review, according to which the international customary law is not consistently applied with regard to the jurisdictional immunity of a foreign State;

  • second, a foreign State cannot claim immunity from the jurisdiction of a court of another State in proceedings which relate to the liability for war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity, if the facts which occasioned damage occurred in the territory of that another State; there is a link between those international crimes and the territory of the State of the forum and the latter must be authorised to adjudicate on the liability for those acts;

  • third, the applicant claim that a foreign State does not enjoy jurisdictional immunity in the cases involving clear violations of universally accepted rules of international law – a State committing such a violation implicitly waives its immunity;

  • fourth, the applicants acknowledge the ICJ judgment of 2012 but claim that it (i) failed to take into account all the relevant precedent on the scope of jurisdictional immunity; (ii) held that the illegal acts constituted acta iure imperii, disregarding the conflict between the jurisdictional immunity and the acts violating fundamental human rights; (iii) preferred not to explicitly address the question as to whether the jurisdictional immunity should be enjoyed by a State that violated human dignity or not – doing so, the ICJ left space for the national courts to step in; (iv)  the ICJ judgments are biding only to the parties to the proceedings; with regard to the non-parties they have the same binding force as national decisions; (v) due to the evolving nature of the doctrine of jurisdictional immunity and its scope, a national court can settle the matter differently than the ICJ did in 2012.

Subsequent issues of constitutional concern seem to rely on the same or similar arguments and concern:

  • violation of international law binding Poland due to the recognition of jurisdictional immunity of a State with regard to the cases on liability for war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity;

  • violation of the human dignity as there is no procedural pathway for claiming the reparation of damages resulting from those international crimes;

  • violation of the protection of ownership and other proprietary rights by barring the actions for damages resulting from those international crimes.

E.   The controversies regarding the Constitutional Court

The overview of the request for a constitutional review in the case K 25/20 would not be complete without a brief mention of the current state of affairs in the Polish Constitutional Court itself.

In the 2021 judgement in Xero Flor v. Poland, the European Court of Human Rights held, in essence, that the Constitutional Court panel composed in violation of the national constitution (i.e. election of one of the adjudicating judges “vitiated by grave irregularities that impaired the very essence of the right at issue”) does not meet the requirements allowing it to be considered a “tribunal established by law” within the meaning of the Article 6(1) of the European Convention.

One of the judges sitting on the panel adjudicating the case K 25/20 was elected under the same conditions as those considered by the ECHR in its 2021 judgment. The other four were elected during the various stages of the constitutional crisis ongoing since 2015. In practice, and most regretfully, the case K 25/20 that revolves around the alleged violation of the right to a court provided for in Polish constitutional law risks to be deliberated in the circumstances that, on their own, raise concerns as to the respect of an equivalent right enshrined in the European Convention.

The Greek Supreme Court has decided: Relatives of persons killed in accidents are immediate victims

A groundbreaking judgment was rendered last October by the Greek Supreme Court. Relatives of two Greek crew members killed in Los Llanos Air Base, Spain, initiated proceedings before Athens courts for pain and suffering damages (solatium). Although the action was dismissed by the Athens court of first instance, and the latter decision was confirmed by the Athens court of appeal, the cassation was successful: The Supreme Court held that both the Brussels I bis Regulation and the Lugano Convention are establishing international jurisdiction in the country where the relatives of persons killed are domiciled, because they must be considered as direct victims.



On 26 January 2015, an F-16D Fighting Falcon jet fighter of the Hellenic Air Force crashed into the flight line at Los Llanos Air Base in Albacete, Spain, killing 11 people: the two crew members and nine on the ground.

The relatives of the Greek crew members filed actions for pain and suffering damages before the Athens court of first instance against a US (manufacturer of the aircraft) and a Swiss (subsidiary of the manufacturer) company. The action was dismissed in 2019 for lack of international jurisdiction. The appeals lodged by the relatives before had the same luck: the Athens court of appeal confirmed in 2020 the first instance ruling. The relatives filed a cassation, which led to the judgment nr. 1658/5.10.2022 of the Supreme Court.


Out of a number of cassation grounds, the Supreme Court prioritized the examination of the ground referring to the international jurisdiction deriving from Articles 7(2) Brussels I bis Regulation and 5(3) Lugano Convention 2007. Whereas the analysis of the court was initially following the usual path, established by the CJEU and pertinent legal scholarship, namely, that third persons suffering moral (immaterial) damages are classified as indirect victims of torts committed against their relative, when the accident results in the death of the relative, they have to be considered as direct victims, which leads to their right to file a claim for damages (solatium) in the courts of their domicile.

In particular, the analysis of the Supreme Court is the following:

  1. Articles 7(2) Brussels I bis Regulation and 5(3) Lugano Convention 2007

With regard to the mental suffering caused by the incident as a result of the tort, after his death, the relative can no longer be subject to rights (and obligations) and, therefore, have claims against the wrongdoer.

In this case, the relatives of the deceased have by law a personal claim against the defendants, since the infliction of mental suffering is a primary and direct damage to their person; therefore, the place of its occurrence is important for the establishment of the court’s international jurisdiction in the court which this place is located, for the adjudication of their respective claim.

In other words, the infliction of mental suffering is a direct injury to the persons close to the deceased; it is separate and independent from the primary injury suffered by the latter, without this mental suffering being considered, due to the previous injury of the deceased, as indirect damage. The wrongdoer’s behavior, considered independently, also constitutes an independent reason for an obligation towards them for monetary satisfaction (and compensation), without the mental suffering caused presupposing any other damage to the above persons, so that it could be characterized as a consequence of it, and, consequently , as indirect with respect to this damage.

The place where the mental suffering comes from is not the place, where by chance the person was informed of the death of his relative and felt the mental pain, but the place of his main residence, where he mainly and permanently suffers this pain, which certainly has a duration of time and, therefore, burdens him not all at once, but for a long, as a rule, period of time.

It should be noted that, according to Greek law, in the case of tortious acts, a claim for compensation and monetary satisfaction due to moral damage is only available to the person immediately harmed by the act or omission, and not by the third party indirectly injured. Hence, where Article 932 of the Civil Code states that, in the event of the death of a person, monetary compensation may be awarded to the victim’s family due to mental distress, it clearly considers the relatives of the deceased as immediately damaged and, in any case, fully equates them with their primary affected relative.

In view of the above, articles 7(2) of Regulation 1215/2012 and 5(3) of the Lugano Convention, have the meaning that the mental suffering, which is connected to the death of a person as a result of a tort committed in a member state, and which is suffered by the relatives of this victim, who reside in another member state, constitutes direct damage in the place of their main residence. Therefore, the court, in whose district the person, who suffered mental anguish due to the death of his relative, has his residence, has territorial competence and international jurisdiction to adjudicate the claim arising from the mental suffering caused for the payment of damages.

The above conclusion also results from the grammatical interpretation of the above provisions, given that they do not make any distinction as to whether the damage concerns the primary sufferer or other persons, but only require that the damage caused to the plaintiff may be characterized as direct.

An opposite opinion would necessarily lead in this case to the international jurisdiction only of the court of the place where the damaging event occurred, a solution, however, that is not in accordance with the interpretation of the above rules by the CJEU, which accepts, without distinction or limitation, equally and simultaneously, the international jurisdiction of the place where the direct damage occurred.


  1. The interdependence of Brussels I bis Regulation and Rome II Regulation

It is true that in the interpretation of Article 4(1) Regulation 864/2007 on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations, the CJEU ruled that, damages connected with the death of a person due to such an accident within the Member State of the trial court, suffered by the victim’s relatives residing in another Member State, must be characterized as “indirect results” of the said accident, under the meaning of the provision in question (case Florin Lazar v Allianz SpA, C-350/14).

However, in addition to the fact that this judgment concerned the choice of applicable law, the same court has accepted that, according to recital 7 Regulation 864/2007, the intention of the EU legislator was to ensure consistency between Regulation 44/2001 (already 1215/2012), and the material scope as well as the provisions of Regulation 864/2007; however, “it does not follow in any way that the provisions of Regulation 44/2001 must, for this reason, be interpreted in the light of the provisions of Regulation 864/2007. In no case can the intended consequence result in an interpretation of the provisions of Regulation 44/2001, inconsistent with the system and its purposes.

And the Supreme Court concluded:

According to all of the above, pursuant to the provision of article 35 of the Civil Code, as interpreted in the light of articles 7(2) Regulation 1215/2012 and 5(3) Lugano Convention, the Greek courts have international and local jurisdiction to adjudicate claims for payment of reasonable monetary satisfaction due to mental anguish, as a result of the death of a relative of the claimants, committed in another Member State, if the claimants reside in the court’s district.



One member of the Supreme Court distanced himself from the panel, and submitted a minority opinion, which was founded on the prevailing opinion followed by the CJEU and legal scholarship. In particular, according to the minority report, the damage caused to the claimants due to the death of their relative remains an indirect one, given that the damage caused was of a reflective and not of a direct nature. The minority opinion emphasized also on the predictability factor, which was not elaborated by the panel.



The judgment of the Supreme Court opens the Pandora’s box in a matter well settled so far. An earlier judgment rendered by the Italian Supreme Court followed the prevailing view [see Corte di Cassazione (IT) 11.02.2003 – 2060 – Staltari e altre ./. GAN IA Compagnie française SA ed altri, available in: unalex Case law Case IT-19].

In matters where national courts wish to deviate from the prevalent, if not unanimous view taken by the CJEU and European legal scholarship, the most prudent solution would be to address the matter to the Court, by filing a request for a preliminary ruling. The latter applies to both international jurisdiction, and interdependence between the Brussels I bis and the Rome II Regulation.