Tag Archive for: enforcement

Dubai Supreme Court Admits Reciprocity with the UK and Enforces an English Judgment


I have been reporting on this blog some recent cases from the Dubai Supreme Court (DSC) regarding the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments (see here, here and here). Reading these posts may have given the legitimate impression that the enforcement of foreign judgments in the UAE, and especially in Dubai, is particularly challenging. This post aims to mitigate that perception by shedding light on a very recent case in which the Dubai courts, with the approval of the DSC, ruled in favor of the enforcement of an English judgment. As the comments below indicate, this is probably the very first case in which the DSC has positively ruled  in favor of the enforcement of an English judgment by declaring that the judgment in question met all the requirements set out in UAE law, and in particular, the reciprocity requirement.

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Denial of Natural Justice as a Defence to Enforcement of a Chinese Judgment in Australia

In Yin v Wu [2023] VSCA 130, the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria set aside a judgment[1] which had affirmed the enforcement a Chinese judgment by an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.[2] This was a rare instance of an Australian court considering the defence to enforcement of a foreign judgment on the basis that the judgment debtor was denied natural justice—or procedural fairness—before the foreign court.


The dispute concerned a payment made by a Chinese national living in China, Di Wu, to a Chinese national living in Australia, Ke Yin. The payment was made pursuant to a foreign exchange agreement: Yin had promised to pay Wu a sum of US Dollars in exchange for Wu’s Chinese RMB.

The arrangement was made unusually through a series of Telegram and WhatsApp messages, from accounts with different numbers and aliases. (In Australia, we would say that the arrangement sounded ‘suss’.) The agreement was seemingly contrary to Chinese law, which may have contributed to the clandestine character of communications underlying the agreement; see [30].

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Is Chinese Judicial Mediation Settlement ‘Judgment’ in Private International Law?

Judicial mediation is a unique dispute resolution mechanism in Chinese civil procedure. Wherever civil disputes are brought to the court, the judge should, based on parties’ consent, mediate before adjudicating. Judicial mediation, therefore, is an ‘official’ mediation process led by the judge and if successful, the judge will make a document to record the plea, the fact and the settlement agreement. This document is called ‘judicial mediation settlement’ in this note.

On 7 June 2022, the Supreme Court of New South Wales recognized and enforced two Chinese judicial mediation settlement issued by the People’s Court of Qingdao, Shandong Province China in Bank of China Limited v Chen. It raises an interesting question: is Chinese judicial mediation settlement recognisable as a foreign ‘judgment’ and enforceable in the other country? Two commentors provide different views on this matter.

Judicial Mediation Settlement can be classified as ‘Judgment’
Zilin Hao, Anjie Law Firm, Beijing, China

In Chinese civil trial practice, there are two types of legal document to merits issued by courts that has the res judicata effect, namely Minshi Panjue Shu (“MPS”) (civil judgment) and Minshi Tiaojie Shu (“MTS”). The MTS refers to the mediation settlement reached by the parties when a judge acts as a mediator and as part of the judicial process. It has been translated in various ways: civil mediation judgment, civil mediation statement, civil mediation, mediation certificate, mediation agreement, written mediation agreement, written mediation statement, conciliation statement and consent judgment, civil mediation statement, mediation agreement and paper of civil mediation. In order to distinguish it from private mediation settlement, the mediation settlement reached during the court mediation process is translated into the ‘judicial mediation settlement’.

No matter how the translation of MTS is manifested, the intrinsic nature of a judicial mediation settlement should be compared with the civil judgment, and analysed independently in the context of recognition and enforcement of judgments (“REJ”). Take the HCCH 2019 Judgments Convention as an example in an international dimension, Article 4 Paragraph 3 of the Convention provides that “A judgment shall be recognised only if it has effect in the State of origin, and shall be enforced only if it is enforceable in the State of origin.” In terms of REJ, a foreign judgment shall be effective and enforceable. While the validity of a foreign judgment specifically means when the judgment is made by a court has competent jurisdiction, the parties’ rights in proceedings are not neglected or violated, and the judgment is conclusive and final; the enforceability is more associated with types of judgments, such as fixed sum required in monetary judgments.

1. What is a judicial mediation settlement

Firstly, judicial mediation settlement is granted effectiveness by Chinese court in accordance with Article 100 of Civil Procedure Law of China (revised in 2021), which stipulates that “When a mediation agreement is reached, the people’s court shall prepare a written mediation statement, stating the claims, the facts of the case and the result of the mediation. The written mediation statement shall be signed by the judicial officers and the court clerk, be affixed with the seal of the people’s court and shall be served on both parties. A written mediation statement shall come into force immediately upon signatures after receiving by both parties.” In the civil trial proceedings of China, judges are encouraged to carry out mediation on a voluntary and lawful basis, failing which, a judgment shall be rendered forthwith. Article 125 also affirms that for a civil dispute brought by the parties to the people’s court, if it is suitable for mediation, mediation shall be conducted first, unless the parties refuse mediation. According to Article 96 of Civil Procedure Law of China, in trying civil cases, a people’s court shall conduct mediation to the merits of case under the principle of voluntary participation of the parties and based on clear facts. Article 97 Paragraph 1 states that mediation conducted by a people’s court may be presided over by a single judge or by a collegiate bench. Thus, with the consent of parties, judges are entitled to make a judicial mediation settlement. Once a written mediation statement based on the mediation agreement reached by parties is made by the judges and served to litigant parties, the judicial mediation settlement shall come into effect.

Secondly, the effective judicial mediation settlement has the enforceability. As paragraph 3 of Article 52 of Civil Procedure Law represented, the parties must exercise their litigation rights in accordance with the law, abide by the litigation order, and perform legally effective judgments, rulings and mediation decisions. Therefore, assumed China is the state of origin to make a judicial mediation settlement, which has effect, and it is enforceable in the state of origin.

2. Similarity between judicial mediation settlement and judgment

Although the mediation and judgment exist under different articles of the Chinese Civil Procedure Law (an MTS under art 97, an MPS under art 155), the judicial mediation settlement has more common points than difference compared with a civil judgment. First of all, in terms of adjudicative power, the judicial mediation settlement is not only a verification of the parties’ agreement as the judges are involved in the whole of mediatory process and they exercise the power of adjudication. The consent of parties to mediation is a premise, but the judicial mediation settlement is not only to do with the parties’ consent. For example, according to Article 201 of the Civil Procedure Law of China, where a mediation agreement is reached through mediation by a legally established mediation organization and an application for judicial confirmation is to be filed, both parties shall jointly submit the application to the prescribed court within 30 days from the date when the mediation agreement takes effect. After the people’s court accepts the application and review it, if the application complies with the legal provisions, the mediation agreement will be ruled as valid, and if one party refuses to perform or fails to perform in full, the other party may apply to the people’s court for enforcement; if the application does not comply with the legal provisions, the court will make a ruling to reject the application. Moreover, the written mediation statement shall be signed by the judicial officers and the court clerk, be affixed with the seal of the people’s court, which also means the judges or courts are responsible for the mediation decision they have made.

Secondly, the judicial mediation settlement has the almost same enforceability with the civil judgment. On the one hand, the judicial mediation settlement and other legal documents that should be enforced by the people’s court must be fulfilled by the parties. If one party refuses to perform, the other party may apply to the people’s court for enforcement. On the other hand, a legally effective civil judgment or ruling must be performed by the parties. If one party refuses to perform, the other party may apply to the people’s court for enforcement, or the judge may transfer the execution to the executioner.

Thirdly, the judicial mediation settlement has the legal effect of finality similar with a final civil judgment. According to article 102, if no agreement is reached through mediation or if one party repudiates the agreement prior to service of the mediation settlement, the people’s court shall promptly make a judgment. Therefore, once a written mediation statement (MTS) served and signed by both parties, it has the same binding force as a legally effective judgment.

It is worth noting that mediation can take place in several different stages: if mediation is possible before the court session, the dispute shall be resolved in a timely manner by means of mediation; after the oral argument is over, a judgment shall be made in accordance with the law. If mediation is possible before the judgment, mediation may still be conducted; if mediation fails, a judgment shall be made in a timely manner. The people’s court of second instance may conduct mediation in hearing appeal cases. When an agreement is reached through mediation, a mediation statement shall be prepared, signed by the judges and the clerk, and affixed with the seal of the people’s court. After the judicial mediation settlement is served, the judgment of the first instance and original people’s court shall be deemed to be revoked. Therefore, the mediation is a vital part of adjudication power of people’s court has in China.

Additionally, under the common law, a “judgment” is an order of court which gives rise to res judicata. According to Article 127 (5) of Civil Procedure Law of China (2021): “if a party to a case in which the judgment, ruling or civil mediation has become legally effective files a new action for the same case, the plaintiff shall be notified that the case will be handled as a petition for a review…” , which represents that a legally effective civil mediation by the court establishes res judicata and embodies a judgment.

3. Conclusion

To conclude, Chinese civil mediation could be recognized and enforced by foreign countries as a judgment. For now, China and Australia have neither signed a bilateral judicial assistance treaty, nor have they jointly concluded any convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign court judgments, but de facto reciprocity should have been established between China and Australia (or at least the states of Victoria and NSW). Although there was the precedent of Bao v Qu; Tian (No 2) [2020] NSWSC 588 judgment recognized and enforced by the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the civil mediation judgment marks the first time that foreign courts of common law jurisdictions may recognize and enforce Chinese mediation judgments, which means important reference for other common law jurisdictions. Also, it has broadened the path for many domestic creditors who have obtained judicial claims through civil mediation, especially financial institutions, to recover and enforce the assets transferred by the debtor and hidden overseas.

Chinese Judicial Mediation Settlement should not be treated as ‘judgment’

Jingru Wang, Wuhan University Institute of International Law

1. Applicable Law

Whether a foreign document that seeks recognition and enforcement is a ‘judgment’ is a question of law. Therefore, the first question one needs to consider is which law applies to decide the nature of the foreign document. In Bank of China Limited v Chen, Harrison AsJ held that this matter should be determined under the law of Australia, which is the country where recognition is sought.

Interestingly, the Singapore High Court gave a different answer to the same question. In Shi Wen Yue v Shi Minjiu and another, the Assistant Registrar held that it was indeed the law of the foreign country where an official act occurs that determines whether that official act constitutes a final and conclusive judgment. Therefore, he applied Chinese law to determine the nature of the judicial mediation settlement.

It is argued applying the law of the state of origin is more appropriate. When the parties seek recognition of a foreign judgment, they anticipate that the foreign judgment is viewed as having the effect it has in its state of origin. But by applying the law of the state of recognition, a document may have greater or less effect in the state of recognition than in the state of origin. In Bank of China Limited v Chen, the plaintiff advocated for applying the Australian Law, stating that applying the law of the state of origin may lead to absurd mistakes. For example, if a ticket were regarded as a judgment by a foreign state, the Australian would have to treat it as a judgment and enforce it. The argument can hardly be the case in reality. Firstly, it is suspicious that a civilized country in modern society may randomly entitle any document as “judgment”. Secondly, even if the state of origin and the state of recognition have different understandings of the notion of judgment, a state usually will not deny the effect of a foreign state’s act in order to preserve international comity, unless such classification fundamentally infringes the public order of the state of recognition in some extreme occasions. Therefore, out of respect for the state of origin, the nature of the judicial mediation settlement shall be determined by Chinese law as a question of fact.

2. The Nature of Judicial mediation settlement

In Bank of China Limited v Chen, Harrison AsJ made an analogy to a consent judgment in common law jurisdiction when determining the nature of judicial mediation settlement. It was held that both were created by the parties’ consent but nevertheless are judgments being mandatorily enforceable and having coercive authority. On the contrary, the Assistant Registrar in Shi Wen Yue v Shi Minjiu and another specifically pointed out that “a common law court must be conscious of the unexamined assumptions and biases of the common law”. The common law and civil law view the notion of judicial power differently. The common law embodies an adversarial system of justice. Thus, the common law courts do not take issue with settlement agreements being given the imprimatur of consent judgments. However, in civil law countries, judges play an active inquisitorial role. They are “responsible for eliciting relevant evidence” while party-led discovery is anathema and seen as a usurpation of judicial power. Therefore, it is the proper and exclusive province of judges to judge and issue judgments. It would almost be a contradiction in terms for a party-negotiated settlement to be given the moniker of a consent judgment. For these reasons, judicial mediation settlements are not labelled as judgments.

Chinese law explicitly differentiates the judicial mediation settlement from judgment. Primarily, court judgments and judicial mediation settlements fall under different chapters in the Chinese Civil Procedure Law, while the former belongs to Part II “Adjudication Process”. It is further evidenced by the principle that the parties reaching an agreement during judicial mediation cannot request the court to make a judgment based on such an agreement.

A judgment reflects the court’s determination on the merits issue after adjudication. The judicial mediation settlement is a document issued by the court which records the settlement agreement reached between the parties during the judicial mediation. The differences between them are as follows. Firstly, the judicial mediation settlement shall be signed by the judicial officers and the court clerk, be affixed with the seal of the people’s court and shall be served on both parties. It comes into force once the parties sign after receiving. The parties are entitled to repudiate the agreement prior to service of the mediation agreement. Namely, the court’s confirmation per se is insufficient to validate a judicial mediation settlement. The effectiveness of judicial mediation settlement depends on the parties’ consent. Conversely, a judgment does not require the parties’ approval to become effective.

Secondly, a judicial mediation settlement could be set aside if it violates the law or party autonomy, which are typical grounds for invalidating a contract. The grounds for nullifying a judgment include erroneous factual findings or application of law and procedural irregularities, which put more weight on the manner of judges.

Thirdly,the content of the judicial mediation settlement shall not be disclosed unless the court deems it necessary for protecting the national, social or third parties’ interests. However, as required by the principle of “Public Trial” and protection for people’s right to know, a judgment shall be pronounced publicly. Disclosing the judgment is important for the public to supervise the judicial process. Compared to court judgments, since a judicial mediation settlement is reached internally between the parties for disposing of their private rights and obligations, naturally, it is not subject to disclosure.

Fourthly, while the judicial mediation settlement is a document parallel to judgment in the sense of putting an end to the judicial proceedings, the effect of the judicial mediation settlement is more limited. An effective judicial mediation settlement settles the parties’ rights and obligations on the merits and refrains them from filing another lawsuit based on the same facts and reasons. A judicial mediation settlement is enforceable against the debtor immediately without requiring further order or judgment from the Chinese court. However, unlike judgments, judicial mediation settlements lack the positive effect of res judicata. In other words, matters confirmed by judicial mediation settlements cannot be the basis of the lawsuits dealing with different claims afterwards.

It is fair to say that the judicial mediation settlement combines party autonomy and the court’s confirmation. But it would be far-reaching to equate the court’s confirmation with exercising judicial power. Judges act as mediators to assist the parties in resolving the dispute instead of making decisions for them. The judicial mediation settlement is intrinsically an agreement but not barely a private agreement since it has undertaken the court’s supervision.

3. Conclusion

It is understandable that the plaintiff sought to define judicial mediation settlements as judgments. The judgment enforcement channel is indeed more efficient than seeking enforcement of a private agreement. However, considering the nature of the judicial mediation settlement, it is doubtful to define it as court judgment. In the author’s opinion, since the original court has confirmed the justification of the judicial mediation settlement, it shall be recognized by foreign states. At the same time, a different approach to recognition is worth exploring.

Canada’s Top Court to Hear Enforcement Dispute

By Stephen G.A. Pitel, Western University

The Supreme Court of Canada has granted leave in H.M.B. Holdings Limited v Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda.  Information about the appeal is available here. The decision being appealed, rendered by the Court of Appeal for Ontario, is available here.  In the usual course the appeal will be heard in the late spring or early fall of 2021.  The grant of leave is notable because Canada’s top court only hears a small handful of conflict of laws cases in any given year.

In 2014 the Privy Council rendered a judgment in favour of HMB against Antigua and Barbuda for over US$35 million including interest.  In 2016 HMB sued at common law to have the Privy Council judgment recognized and enforced in British Columbia.  Antigua and Barbuda did not defend and default judgment was granted in 2017.  HMB then sought to register the British Columbia decision (not the Privy Council decision) under Ontario’s statutory scheme for the registration of judgments of other Canadian common law provinces.  This required the Ontario courts to engage in a process of statutory interpretation, with one of the central issues being whether the scheme applied to the recognition and enforcement judgment or only to what have been called “original judgments”.

The procedure used by HMB for getting the Privy Council decision enforced in Ontario might seem odd.  The Ontario application judge referred to the process as involving a “ricochet judgment”.  As to why HMB did not bring a common law action on the Privy Council judgment in Ontario, as it had done in British Columbia, there appears to be some issue that such an action could be outside the applicable limitation period.  British Columbia (10 years) has a longer limitation period than Ontario (2 years) for common law actions to enforce foreign judgments.

The Ontario courts held that the scheme did not apply to the British Columbia judgment or, in the alternative, if it did, Antigua and Barbuda were entitled to resist the registration on the basis that it was not “carrying on business” in British Columbia (which is a defence to registration under the Ontario scheme).  The majority of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, perhaps proceeding in an inverted analytical order, held that because Antigua and Barbuda was not carrying on business in British Columbia it did not need to address the (more fundamental) issue of the scope of the scheme.  The dissenting judge held Antigua and Barbuda was carrying on business in British Columbia and so did address the scope of the scheme, finding it did apply to a recognition and enforcement judgment.

In my view, it is unfortunate that all of the Ontario judges focused quite particularly on the language of various provisions of the statutory scheme without greater consideration of the underlying policy question of whether the scheme, as a whole, truly was meant to allow knock-on or ricochet enforcement.  Ontario’s scheme is explicitly limited to allowing registration of judgments of other Canadian common law provinces.  It strikes me as fundamentally wrong to interpret this as covering all foreign judgments those other provinces themselves choose to enforce.  Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see whether the Supreme Court of Canada resolves the appeal solely on the basis of the intended scope of the registration scheme or instead devotes significant attention to addressing the meaning of “carrying on business”.

Have your say: the EU opens Public Consultation into the possible accession to the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention

The EU has opened a Public Consultation into a possible accession to the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention. The Consultation will run from 22 June 2020 – 05 October 2020 (midnight, Brussels time).

The Consultation is expansive and the target audience is described as follows: businesses and citizens involved or likely to get involved in international trade and investment; public authorities (including justice professionals); social partners organisations (trade unions and employers organisations), trade, business and professional associations, including consumer and business organisations, as well as professional organisations representing lawyers and members of research or academic institutions.

Importantly, the Consultation is not limited to EU Stakeholders. Rather, the EU expressly invites non-EU Stakeholders to participate and have their say.

Given the importance of being able to manage cross-border enforcement risks and validate rights through a predictable, effective and efficient international enforcement mechanism, this Consultation should attract many submissions from around the globe.

The questionnaire, which is available, and can be filled in, in any official EU language, as well as further information concerning the Consultation, can be found following this link.


A true game changer and the apex stone of international commercial litigation – the NILR Special Edition on the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention is now available as final, paginated volume

On 2 July 2019, the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) adopted the 2019 Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters (2019 HCCH Judgments Convention). The instrument has already been described as a true game changer and the apex stone in international commercial litigation.

To celebrate the adoption of the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention, the Netherlands International Law Review (NILR) produced a special edition entirely dedicated to the instrument.

Volume 67(1) of the NILR, which is now available in its final, paginated version, features contributions from authors closely involved in the development of the instruments. The articles provide deep insights into the making, and intended operation, of the instrument. They are a valuable resource for law makers, practitioners, members of the judiciary and academics alike.

The NILR’s Volume comprises the following contributions (in order of print, open access contributions are indicated; the summaries are, with some minor modifications, those published by the NILR).

Thomas John ACIArb, “Foreword” (open access)

Ronald A. Brand, “Jurisdiction and Judgments Recognition at the Hague Conference: Choices Made, Treaties Completed, and the Path Ahead”

Ron Brand considers the context in which a Hague Convention on Jurisdiction and the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments was first proposed in 1992. It then traces the history of the Hague negotiations, both from within those negotiations and in regard to important developments outside the negotiations, through the completion of the 2005 Convention on Choice of Court Agreements and the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention. The article ends with comments on whether it is advisable to now resume discussion of a separate convention on direct jurisdiction.

Francisco Garcimartín, “The Judgments Convention: Some Open Questions”

Francisco Garcimartín explores some of the open issues that were discussed in the negotiation process but remained open in the final text, such as, in particular, the application of the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention to pecuniary penalties (2) and negative obligations (4), as well as the definition of the res judicata effect (3).

Cara North, “The Exclusion of Privacy Matters from the Judgments Convention”

Cara North considers on issue of particular focus in the later phases of the negotiations of the Convention, namely, what, if any, judgments ruling on privacy law matters should be permitted to circulate under the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention. Having acknowledged that privacy is an evolving, broad and ill-defined area of the law and that there are obvious differences in the development and operation of privacy laws and policies in legal systems globally, the Members of the Diplomatic Session on the Judgments Convention determined to exclude privacy matters from the scope of the Convention under Article 2(1)(l). The purpose of this short article is to describe how and why the Diplomatic Session decided to exclude privacy matters from the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention and to offer some observations on the intended scope of that exclusion.

Geneviève Saumier, “Submission as a Jurisdictional Basis and the HCCH 2019 Judgments Convention”

The 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention establishes a list of jurisdictional filters, at least one of which must be satisfied for the judgment to circulate. One of those is the implied consent or submission of the defendant to the jurisdiction of the court of origin. While submission is a common jurisdictional basis in international litigation, its definition and treatment vary significantly across states, whether to establish the jurisdiction of the court of origin or as a jurisdictional filter at the enforcement stage in the requested court. This diversity is most evident with respect to the mechanics and consequences of objecting to jurisdiction to avoid submission. The 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention adopts a variation on an existing approach, arguably the least complex one, in pursuit of its goal to provide predictability for parties involved in cross-border litigation. This contribution canvasses the various approaches to submission in national law with a view to highlighting the points of convergence and divergence and revealing significant complexities associated with some approaches. It then examines how the text in the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention came to be adopted and whether it is likely to achieve its purpose.

Nadia de Araujo, Marcelo De Nardi, “Consumer Protection Under the HCCH 2019 Judgments Convention”

The 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention aims at mitigating uncertainties and risks associated with international trade and other civil relationships by setting forth a simple and safe system according to which foreign judgments can easily circulate from country to country. The purpose of this article is to record the historical moment of the negotiations that took place under the auspices of the HCCH, as well as to pinpoint how consumer cases will be dealt with by the Convention under Article 5(2).

Niklaus Meier, “Notification as a Ground for Refusal”

The 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention provides for several grounds for the refusal of recognition, including refusal based on insufficient notification. While this ground for refusal of the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention seems quite similar to those applied in other conventions, the comparison shows that there are several differences between this instrument and other texts of reference, both with respect to the context of application as well as with respect to the details of the wording. The optional nature of the grounds for refusal under the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention indicates that its primary focus is the free circulation of judgments, and not the protection of the defendant. The latter’s protection is left to the discretion of the state of recognition: a sign of trust amongst the negotiators of the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention, but also a risk for the defendant. Practice will show whether the focus of the negotiators was justified.

Junhyok Jang, “The Public Policy Exception Under the New 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention”

The public policy exception is inherently a fluid device. Its content is basically left to each State. A shared public policy is an exception. Therefore, the obligation of uniform interpretation, as provided in Article 20 of the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention, will have an inherent limit here. Moreover, the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention leaves some important issues, including procedure, to national rules. Each requested State retains a discretion to invoke the Convention grounds of refusal in a concrete case, and on whether to make an ex officio inquiry or have the parties prove those refusal grounds. The 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention also provides for the concrete applications of the public policy exception, following the model of the 2005 Choice of Court Convention. Here, a purely grammatical reading may create some peripheral problems, especially with the specific defences of conflicting judgments and parallel proceedings. Solutions may be found in the method of purposive interpretation and some general principles, particularly the evasion of the law and the abuse of rights, before resorting to the public policy defence.

Marcos Dotta Salgueiro, “Article 14 of the Judgments Convention: The Essential Reaffirmation of the Non-discrimination Principle in a Globalized Twenty-First Century”

The 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention includes a non-discrimination disposition in Article 14, according to which there shall be no security, bond or deposit required from a party on the sole ground that such a party is a foreign national or is not domiciled or resident in the State in which enforcement is sought. It also deals with the enforceability of orders for payment of costs in situations where the precedent disposition applied, and lays down an ‘opt-out’ mechanism for those Contracting States that may not wish to apply that principle. This article frames the discussion of the non-discrimination principle in the wider context of previous private international law instruments as well as from the perspectives of access to justice, human rights and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), understanding that its inclusion in the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention was an important, inescapable and necessary achievement.

Paul R. Beaumont, “Judgments Convention: Application to Governments” (open access)

The 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention makes the classic distinction between private law matters within its scope (civil or commercial matters) and public law matters outside its scope. It also follows the same position in relation to State immunity used in the Hague Choice of Court Convention 2005 (see Art. 2(5) in 2019 and 2(6) in 2005). The innovative parts of the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention relate to the exclusions from scope in Article 2 relating to the armed forces, law enforcement activities and unilateral debt restructuring. Finally, in Article 19, the Convention creates a new declaration system permitting States to widen the exclusion from scope to some private law judgments concerning a State, or a State agency or a natural person acting for the State or a Government agency. This article gives guidance on the correct Treaty interpretation of all these matters taking full account of the work of the Hague Informal Working Group dealing with the application of the Convention to Governments and the other relevant supplementary means of interpretation referred to in Article 32 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

João Ribeiro-Bidaoui, “The International Obligation of the Uniform and Autonomous Interpretation of Private Law Conventions: Consequences for Domestic Courts and International Organisations”

This article addresses the issue of the uniform and autonomous interpretation of private law conventions, including of private international law conventions, from the perspective of their Contracting States, particularly their judiciaries, and of the international organizations. Firstly, the author analyses the use of standard uniform interpretation clauses, and the origin of such clauses, in the context of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. The following part the article addresses negative and positive obligations imposed on States and their judiciaries under international law regarding the uniform and autonomous interpretation of international treaties. It is argued that States are not only obliged to refrain from referring to concepts from national laws for the purpose of the interpretation of international law instruments, but also that they face certain positive obligations in the process of applying the conventions. Those include referring to foreign case law, international scholarship, and under certain circumstances, also to travaux préparatoires. Thirdly, the author discusses the role of international organizations—e.g. HCCH, UNCITRAL, UNIDROIT, in safeguarding and facilitating the uniform and autonomous interpretation of private law conventions. It does so by describing various related tools and approaches, with examples and comments on their practical use (e.g. advisory opinions, information sharing, access to supplementary material, judicial exchanges and legislative action).

The NILR’s Special Edition on the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention concludes with a reproduction of the text of the 2019 HCCH Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters, as adopted on 2 July 2019.

Opinion of Advocate General Bobek in the case C-41/19, FX: Jurisdiction to rule on an application opposing enforcement of a maintenance decision

In today’s Opinion, Advocate General Bobek analyses whether the courts of a Member State in which a maintenance decision delivered by the courts of another Member State is enforced have jurisdiction to rule on an application opposing the enforcement.

More specifically, the reference for a preliminary ruling originates in a dispute between a maintenance debtor residing in Germany and a maintenance creditor residing in Poland. The latter lodged with the referring court an application requesting the recognition of a Polish maintenance decision and a declaration of its enforceability in Germany in accordance with Maintenance Regulation. The referring court delivered an order for enforcement in respect of the Polish maintenance decision. On the basis of that order, the defendant sought the enforcement of this decision against the debtor in Germany. The maintenance debtor opposed the enforcement based on Paragraph 767 of the German Code of Civil Procedure (the ZPO) and argued that the claim underlying the maintenance decision has been settled by payment.

Before deciding on the merits, it was for the referring court to decide whether it has jurisdiction to rule on the application opposing the enforcement. As the Opinion explains, at point 29:

In a nutshell, it seems that the referring court understands that there are two mutually exclusive possibilities. If [the Maintenance Regulation] were applicable, that would mean that the referring court lacks jurisdiction under Article 3 of that regulation. It is only if [the Maintenance Regulation] cannot be applied that it would be possible to base jurisdiction on Article 24(5) of [the Brussels I bis Regulation], according to which the courts of the Member State of enforcement have jurisdiction in proceedings concerned with such enforcement.

Against this background, the Opinion confirms, at points 32 et 33, that while the Brussels I bis Regulation contains, in Article 24(5), an explicit rule granting exclusive jurisdiction in proceedings concerned with the enforcement of judgments to the courts of the Member State in which the judgment has been or is to be enforced, the Maintenance Regulation does not contain any explicit rule on jurisdiction regarding the enforcement of decisions in matters relating to maintenance.

Disagreeing with the referring court’s understanding of the issue of jurisdiction, at point 42, the Opinion states, however, that the rules on jurisdiction provided for in the Chapter II of the Maintenance Regulation establish jurisdiction with regard to the main procedure on the merits, but not with regard to the enforcement of such decisions.

Moreover, at points 43 et seq., the Opinion explains that a rule according to which enforcement belongs to the courts of the Member State where enforcement is sought is inherent in the system of the Maintenance Regulation and is an expression of what could be considered a general principle of international law:

43. […] even though Chapter IV of [the Maintenance Regulation] does not contain any explicit jurisdictional rule with regard to enforcement, that rule can be considered inherent in the system of that regulation.

44. In general terms, international jurisdiction for enforcement belongs to the courts of the Member State where enforcement is sought. As the Polish Government points out, that rule is an expression of what could be considered a general principle of international law connected with State sovereignty: it is only the authorities of the State of enforcement that are empowered to rule on the execution of decisions, as enforcement measures can only be carried out by the authorities of the Member State(s) where the assets or persons against which enforcement is sought are situated. That rule is valid, a fortiori, where a decision has already been recognised as enforceable in the Member State where enforcement is sought.

45. Therefore, it is not necessary to have recourse to Article 24(5) of [the Brussels I bis Regulation] as a supplementary provision in order to be able to establish that the courts of the Member State of enforcement also have jurisdiction with regard to the enforcement of maintenance decisions within the scope of [the Maintenance Regulation]. Indeed, that article can be considered as an expression of the general principle just mentioned. 

Next, at points 50 et seq., the Opinion addresses the question whether an application seeking to oppose enforcement based on the discharge of the debt is to be considered as appertaining, for the purposes of jurisdiction, to enforcement proceedings. The extensive analysis is followed by a summary, at point 85:

85. For those reasons, it is my view that jurisdiction to adjudicate on an action opposing enforcement based on the discharge of debt falls to the courts of the Member State where the enforcement is sought. For the sake of completeness, I wish to stress two points in lieu of a conclusion. First, the discussion in the present Opinion and the conclusion reached concerned only the ground of opposition based on the discharge of the debt. Second, beyond that specific ground, no position is taken on the overall compatibility of Paragraph 767 of the ZPO with EU law.

The Advocate General concluded, at point 86:

86. [The Maintenance Regulation] and, in particular, Article 41(1) thereof, should be interpreted as meaning that the courts of the Member State where the enforcement of a maintenance decision given in another Member State is sought have jurisdiction to adjudicate on an application opposing enforcement, in so far as it is intrinsically connected with enforcement proceedings, it does not seek the modification or review of the maintenance decision, and it is based on grounds that could not have been raised before the court that issued the maintenance decision. Those conditions appear to be fulfilled by the application of opposition to enforcement based on the discharge of the debt at issue in the present case, which is nonetheless ultimately for the referring court to verify.

The Opinion can be found here.

What Does it Mean to Submit to a Foreign Forum?

The meaning of submission was the central question, though by no means the only one, in the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Barer v Knight Brothers LLC, 2019 SCC 13 (available here).  Knight sought enforcement of a Utah default judgment against Barer in Quebec.  The issue was governed by Quebec’s law on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments, which is set out in various provisions of the Civil Code of Quebec (so much statutory interpretation analysis ensued).  Aspects of the decision may be of interest to those in other countries that have similar provisions in their own codes.

The court held that the Utah decision was enforceable in Quebec.  Seven judges (Gascon J writing the majority decision) held that Barer had submitted to the Utah court’s jurisdiction.  Two judges held that he had not.  One of them (Brown J) held that the Utah court had jurisdiction on another basis, and so concurred in the result, while the other (Cote J) held it did not, and so dissented.

The majority held that in his efforts to challenge the Utah’s court’s jurisdiction, Barer had presented substantive arguments going to the merits of the dispute (para 6).  It analysed various possible steps in a foreign proceeding that either would or would not constitute submission (paras 59-63).  It was invited by Barer to consider the “save your skin” approach to submission, which would recognize that a defendant who both challenged jurisdiction and raised substantive arguments would not be taken to have submitted.  It rejected that approach (para 68).  Its core concern was to protect “the plaintiff’s legitimate interest in knowing at some point in the proceedings, whether or not the defendant has submitted to the jurisdiction” (para 62).  It added that “plaintiffs who invest time and resources in judicial proceedings in a jurisdiction are entitled to some certainty regarding whether or not the defendants have submitted to the court’s jurisdiction” (para 67).

The majority acknowledged that in a case in which the process of the foreign forum required the raising of a substantive argument alongside a jurisdictional challenge, this could affect the determination of whether the defendant had submitted (para 75).  But this was not such a case: the defendant had not established, as a factual matter, that this was such a feature of the Utah procedure (paras 75 and 78).  Accordingly, the fact that Barer had raised a defence on the merits – that a pure economic loss rule barred the claim against him – amounted to submission (para 71).

In dissent, Justice Cote finds the majority’s test for submission to be “too strict” (para 212).  She urged a “more flexible approach” which would allow a defendant to raise substantive arguments alongside a jurisdictional challenge (para 213).  In her view, if “a broad range of arguments may convince a Utah court that it lacks jurisdiction over a matter … A defendant must be allowed to present those arguments” (para 219).  While Gascon J put the onus of showing that the Utah process required raising substantive arguments at a particular time on the defendant, Cote J put that onus on the plaintiff, the party seeking to enforce the foreign judgment (para 223).

Brown J’s concurring decision did not comment at any length on the test for submission.  He held that “I agree with my colleague Cote J. that Mr. Barer has not submitted to the jurisdiction of the Utah court merely by presenting one argument pertaining to the merits of the action in his Motion to Dismiss” (para 146; emphasis in original).  This is consistent with Cote J’s approach to the meaning of submission.

There is a further interesting dimension to the reasons.  Cote J held, in the alternative, that even if Barer had submitted, the plaintiff also had to show a real and substantial connection between the dispute and Utah before the judgment could be enforced (para 234).  This engaged her in a complex argument about the scheme and wording of the Civil Code.  Having identified this additional legal requirement, she held this was a case in which the submission itself (if established) was not a sufficiently strong connection to Utah and so the decision should nonetheless not be enforced (para 268).  In contrast, Brown J held that there was no separate requirement to show such a connection to Utah (paras 135 and 141-42).  Showing the submission was all that was required.  The majority refused to resolve this interpretive dispute (para 88), holding only that on the facts of this case Barer’s submission “clearly establishes a substantial connection between the dispute and the Utah court” (para 88).

The judges disagreed about several other aspects of the case.  Put briefly and at the risk of oversimplification, Brown J relied primarily on the notion that all parties and aspects of the dispute should have been before the Utah court.  Barer was sufficiently connected with various aspects of the dispute, over which Utah clearly did have jurisdiction, that its jurisdiction over him was proper (see paras 99, 154 and 161-62).  Neither Cote J nor Gascon J agreed with that approach.  There are also disputes about what types of evidence are proper for establishing the requirements for recognition and enforcement and what law applies to various aspects of the analysis.

In a small tangent, the majority decision criticized the “presumption of similarity” doctrine for cases in which the content of foreign law is not properly proven and it offered a more modern explanation of why forum law is applied in such cases (para 76).

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.

Justice Abella has arguably conflated the two factors rather than keeping them separate.  The concerns raised by a multiplicity of proceedings tend to focus on substantive proceedings rather than on subsequent procedural steps to enforce a judgment.  Courts rightly try to avoid substantive proceedings in more than one jurisdiction that arise from the same factual matrix, with one of the core concerns being the potential for inconsistent findings of fact.  Of course, enforcement proceedings do involve an additional step that is avoided if the judgment can simply be enforced locally.  But that, in itself, should not be grouped with the kinds of concerns raised by multiple substantive proceedings.  It will be unfortunate if subsequent courts routinely consider contemplated foreign enforcement proceedings as raising a multiplicity of proceedings concern.

Justice Cote (with whom Justices Brown and Rowe agreed) did not conflate enforcement proceedings and the concern about multiplicity.  However, it should be noted that Club Resorts, which she referenced on this point, stated (para 110 that “problems related to the recognition and enforcement of judgments” is a relevant factor for forum non conveniens.  The stress there should be on “problems”.  If it can be anticipated that there may be problems enforcing the judgment where the assets are, that is an important consideration.  But if no such problems are anticipated, the mere fact that enforcement elsewhere is contemplated should not point even “slightly” against the forum as the place for the litigation.  In Haaretz.com the judges who consider the enforcement factor did not identify any reason to believe that enforcement proceedings in Israel would be other than routine.

The dissenting judges (Chief Justice McLachlin and Justices Moldaver and Gascon) properly separated these two factors in their analysis (paras 234-237).  They did not treat enforcement proceedings as part of the analysis of a multiplicity of proceedings.  On enforcement, their view was that in defamation proceedings it is often sufficient just to obtain the judgment, in vindication of the plaintiff’s reputation, and that enforcement can thus be unnecessary or “irrelevant” (para 236).  Justice Cote strongly disagreed (para 83).  Leaving that dispute to one side, the dissent could have also made the point that this was not a case where any “problems” had been raised about enforcement in Israel.

Ontario Court Enforces American Judgments Against Iran

Under the State Immunity Act, foreign states are generally immune from being sued in Canada.  This includes being sued on a foreign judgment.  However, in 2012 Canada enacted legislation to give victims of terrorism the ability to sue a foreign state that sponsored the terrorism.  It also made it easier for foreign judgments against such a state to be enforced in Canada.

In Tracy v The Iranian Ministry of Information and Security, 2016 ONSC 3759 (released June 9, 2016; likely to be posted in the week of June 13, 2016, in CanLII) the Ontario Superior Court of Justice had to consider these legislative reforms and how they applied to a series of American judgments rendered against Iran in favour of American victims of terrorist acts which Iran was found to have sponsored.  The court held that Iran was not immune from the enforcement proceedings and that accordingly the American judgments were enforceable against certain assets of Iran in Ontario.

The decision is reasonably detailed.  It involves interpretation of the State Immunity Act and the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.  It also considers issues relating to the limitation period and the enforcement of punitive damages awards (in this case, in the hundreds of millions of dollars).  Not all of the analysis resonates as convincing and there is considerable scope for a possible appeal.  For example, Iran’s argument that the loss or damage suffered by the victim had to have been, on the language of s 4(1) of the JVTA, suffered after January 1, 1985, did not prevent the enforcement of American decisions in respect of acts of terror which happened before that date because, the court held, the victims continued to suffer harm on an ongoing basis.  This seems vulnerable to challenge.  In addition, the court’s reasoning as to why the enormous punitive damages awards were not contrary to public policy is extremely brief.

However, on any appeal, Iran does have a significant procedural problem to overcome.  It did not defend the enforcement actions when they were initially brought in Ontario.  All of the immunity arguments were canvassed by the court as part of Iran’s motion to have the resulting default judgments set aside, on the issue of whether Iran might have a viable defence on the merits.  But at no point did Iran offer any explanation for the initial failure to defend.  While not conclusive, this weighs against setting the judgments aside even if Iran can show merit to its position on immunity.

The timing of the court’s decision against Iran could pose challenges for the current Canadian government, which is currently working to re-engage with Iran after the previous government cut ties in 2012 (see news story here).  In addition, a Montreal-based professor has recently been jailed in Iran and this has caused considerable concern in Canada (see news story here).