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New Book: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives on Private International Law

Roxana Banu of Western University has published Nineteenth-Century Perspectives on Private International Law, a new book in the Oxford University Press series on the history and theory of international law.  Information from the publisher can be found here.  From the website:

Private International Law is often criticized for failing to curb private power in the transnational realm. The field appears disinterested or powerless in addressing global economic and social inequality. Scholars have frequently blamed this failure on the separation between private and public international law at the end of the nineteenth century and on private international law’s increasing alignment with private law.

Double Counting the Place of the Tort?

In common law Canada there is a clear separation between the question of a court having jurisdiction (jurisdiction simpliciter) and the question of a court choosing whether to exercise or stay its jurisdiction.  One issue discussed in the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in Haaretz.com v Goldhar (available here) is the extent of that separation.  Does this separation mean that a particular fact cannot be used in both the analysis of jurisdiction and of forum non conveniens?  On its face that seems wrong.  A fact could play a role in two separate analyses, being relevant to each in different ways.

The Most Appropriate Forum: Assessing the Applicable Law

Another issue in the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in Haaretz.com v Goldhar (available here) involves the applicable law as a factor in the forum non conveniens analysis.  It is clear that one of the factors in determining the most appropriate forum is the applicable law.  This is because it is quite easy for the forum to apply its own law and rather more difficult for it to apply the law of another jurisdiction.

So if the defendant can show that the forum would apply not its own law but rather the law of another jurisdiction, that points to a stay of proceedings in favour of that other jurisdiction.  In contrast, if the plaintiff can show that the forum would apply its own law, that points against a stay of proceedings.  In Haaretz.com the plaintiff was able to show that the Ontario court would apply Ontario law, not Israeli law.  So the applicable law factor favoured Ontario.

Not so, argued the defendant, because an Israeli court would apply Israeli law (see para 88).  So as between the two jurisdictions neither was any more convenient than the other!

The Role of Foreign Enforcement Proceedings in Forum Non Conveniens

The doctrine of forum non conveniens, in looking to identify the most appropriate forum for the litigation, considers many factors.  Two of these are (i) a desire to avoid, if possible, a multiplicity of proceedings and (ii) any potential difficulties in enforcing the decision that results from the litigation.  However, it is important to keep these factors analytically separate.

In the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in Haaretz.com v Goldhar (available here) Justice Abella noted that “enforcement concerns would favour a trial in Israel, in large part because Haaretz’s lack of assets in Ontario would mean that any order made against it would have to be enforced by Israeli courts, thereby raising concerns about a multiplicity of proceedings” (para 142).  Similarly, Justice Cote concluded (paras 82-83) that the fact that an Ontario order would have to be enforced in Israel was a factor that “slightly” favoured trial in Israel.

Staying Proceedings, Undertakings and “Buying” a Forum

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

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

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

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

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

Symposium Publication: Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act

The most recent issue of the Osgoode Hall Law Journal (available here) is a special issue, guest edited by Janet Walker, Gerard Kennedy and Sagi Peari, considering the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act.  This statute governs the taking of jurisdiction and both staying and transferring proceedings in civil and commercial matters in three Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

The abstract to the introductory article states: “In 2016, the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act (“CJPTA”) marked its tenth year in force.  Promulgated by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, and adopted in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, the CJPTA was developed to clarify and advance the law of judicial jurisdiction.  In a symposium hosted by Osgoode Hall Law School, ten leading scholars were invited to present papers on specific questions in order to assess the promise of the CJPTA to meet the needs of Canadians in the years ahead and to provide leadership for the law in other parts of Canada.  This article provides an overview of the issues discussed in the symposium; it places the papers that were presented in the larger context of developments in the law of judicial jurisdiction in Canada and internationally; and it summarizes in an appendix the drafting reforms that might be made to the Act.”

New Article: Jurisdiction Clauses in Canada

Tanya Monestier (Roger Williams University School of Law) has published an article (available here) addressing the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Douez v Facebook, Inc. (available here).

UKSC on Traditional Rules of Jurisdiction: Brownlie v Four Seasons Holdings Incorporated

Shortly before Christmas the UKSC released its decision on jurisdiction in Brownlie v Four Seasons Holdings Incorporated (available here). Almost all the legal analysis is obiter dicta because, on the facts, it emerges that no claim against the British Columbia-based holding corporation could succeed (para 15) and the appeal is allowed on that basis. I suppose there is a back story as to why it took a trip to the UKSC and an extraordinary step by that court (para 14) for the defendant to make those facts clear, but I don’t know what it is. On the facts there are other potential defendants to the plaintiffs’ claim and time will tell whether jurisdictional issues arise for them.

The discussion of the value of the place of making a contract for jurisdiction purposes is noteworthy. In para 16 two of the judges (Sumption, Hughes) are critical of using the traditional common law rules on where a contract is made for purposes of taking jurisdiction. This has been the subject of debate in some recent Canadian decisions, notably the difference in approach between the Court of Appeal for Ontario and the Supreme Court of Canada in Lapointe Rosenstein Marchand Melançon LLP v Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, 2016 SCC 30 (available here). The SCC was fine with using the traditional rules for this purpose. In Brownlie, I do not think it is clear as to what view the other three judges take on this point.

Conflicts – Between Domestic and Indigenous Legal Systems?

In Beaver v Hill, 2017 ONSC 7245 (available here) the applicant sought custody, spousal support and child support. All relevant facts happened in Ontario. Read more