I have reported before on the lis alibi pendens issue in the Alexandros litigation. (The left-over claims as identified in my previous post were, I understand, dropped, and hence the need for ECJ referral subsided – Hill Dickinson have a good summary of the various proceedings here). The Court of Appeal on the 18th of July held on the now (following the Supreme Court’s intervention) remaining issue of declarations, damages and indemnities in respect of the owners’ proceedings in Greece seeking damages from the insurers, despite proceedings for sums due under the relevant insurance policies having been settled in England pursuant to a choice of forum clause. (Apologies for this all being a bit dense – reading my previous post helps). (Greek courts in fact rejected the claims in April).
The left-over issue essentially boils down to the question whether despite the ECJ’s prohibition of anti-suit injunctions for subject-matter falling within the Brussel I-Regulation, Member States courts are free to award damages to the party suing elsewhere in the EU in spite of a choice of court agreement between parties. The Court of Appeal held that they are. It justifiably, in my view, distinguished Turner v Grovit . In Turner v Grovit, the ECJ is concerned with mutual trust and allowing (and indeed trusting) the courts in the other Member States to make their own, proper application of the Regulation. Turner and Grovit does not uphold jurisdiction for the other court: it upholds the opportunity for that other court properly to apply the Regulation, which may or may not lead it to uphold jurisdiction.
The judgment of the Court of Appeal re-enforces the attraction of English courts as a destination of choice: parties wishing to torpedo (a prospect less likely in the Brussels I-bis Regulation) may or may not succeed in convincing alternative courts of their jurisdiction. English courts since Turner cannot issue anti-suit. However they may still hold party liable for having breached the choice of court agreement.
When should a court being asked to apply the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York, 1958) – the ‘New York Convention‘, look mercifully on forum shopping with a view to the smooth enforcement of such award? That, in essence, was the issue in Yukos v Tomskneft at the Irish High Court. Both Yukos Capital and Tomskneft were originally part of the Yukos group – of PCIA Yukos arbitral award fame. Tomskneft was later transferred to Rosneft. Arbitral proceedings had taken place in Switzerland, Yukos’ attempts at enforcement in Russia failed, as they did in France. Singapore attempts are underway.
The Irish courts involvement at first view looks odd. There are no Tomskneft assets in Ireland, neither corporate domicile of any Tomskneft affiliates. As Kelly J noted, the Irish proceedings effectively would serve as a jack for proceedings in other jurisdictions where Tomskneft does hold assets. Waving a successful enforcement order (even if it were in practice nugatory, given the lack of assets) obtained in a ‘respectable’ jurisdiction, would assist with enforcement proceedings elsewhere.
The New York Convention has a pro-enforcement bias however the Irish (and other, especially common law countries’) arbitration act in enforcement of the Convention, runs alongside the application of Irish civil procedure rules ‘out of the jurisdiction’, being against a foreign defendant: Kelly J (at 59): In implementing the Convention as it did, the legislature did not attempt to dispense with the necessity to obtain leave to serve out of the jurisdiction in a case where the respondent is not normally resident within it.’
US law, too, requires that preliminary to recognising and enforcing a foreign award, in personam jurisdiction must be established. Decision on such remains subject to lex fori. A jurisdiction which all too happily entertains such cases is then said to employ ‘parochial’ or ‘exorbitant’ jurisdictional rules.
In the case at issue, after referencing prior case-law both in Ireland and elsewhere, Kelly J rejected applicant’s request (at 141): It is a case with no connection with Ireland. There are no assets within this jurisdiction. There is no real likelihood of assets coming into this jurisdiction. This is the fourth attempt on the part of the applicant to enforce this award. There is little to demonstrate any “solid practical benefit” to be gained by the applicant. The desire or entitlement to obtain an award from a “respectable” court has already been exercised in the courts of France and is underway in the courts of Singapore.’
Note therefore that the court is not unsympathetic to the attempt at employing successful (even if hollow) enforcement in one jurisdiction as a lever in the real target jurisdiction (the one with the assets). Except, in the case at issue, similar attempts had already been or still were underway elsewhere.
The case is a very good illustration of the attraction (and uncertainty) of forum shopping, in particular at the enforcement stage. As well as a powerful reminder of the in personam jurisdictional rules of the common law.
The Clapham Omnibus, objective legal standards and EU procurement law. The UKSC in Healthcare at Home Ltd.
This case was not about the procurement of buses – of which there are well-known cases in EU procurement law. Rather, it is about the abstract nature of the many guises of the bonus pater familias, the ‘fair and reasonable man, an intellectual (legal) tradition of defining a legal standard by reference to a hypothetical person, stretching back to roman law. (Lord Reed, at 2). In English law, Greer LJ launched the concept in Hall v. Brooklands Auto-Racing Club, to determine the standard of care required to avoid being found negligent.
In Healthcare at Home Ltd, the UK Supreme Court was asked whether the criteria for the award of a public sector contract (‘public procurement’) had been sufficiently clear. Appellant had argued that whether the contract documents allowed all reasonably well informed tenderers of normal diligence to interpret them in the same way, was to be decided on the basis of factual evidence as to how the various tenderers had in fact understood the documents.
Lord Reed points out (at 4) that in recent times, additional passengers from the EU have boarded the Clapham omnibus, in the case at issue: the reasonably well-informed and normally diligent tenderer. Under EU law (reference is made in the judgment to relevant ECJ case-law) the criteria for a contract award must be formulated in such a manner as to allow all reasonably well informed and diligent tenderers to interpret them uniformly. However, the test is not whether all tenderers have actually interpreted the criteria in the same way. Rather, whether the criteria had been sufficiently clear to permit uniform interpretation by all reasonably well informed and diligent tenderers.
A great case, surely, to kick of one or two comparative law classes. (Thank you to the Times of London for alerting me to the judgment).
Belgium’s origin labelling of products from Israeli – occupied territories. A lot of beating round the bush.
The Belgian Government has published its ‘notice to retailers concerning origin labelling of products from Israeli occupied territories’. The initiative got a lot of press, in Belgium at least, the past few days. It was announced as the culmination of lengthy preparation in light of the existing difficulties in particular with the EU-Israel and EU-Palestine association agreements. Good summary of those difficulties is provided here by DEFRA. (Compiled in 2009 but the issues have remained more or less the same. Note that the Belgian notice refers as far as the exiting origin obligations are concerned, essentially revisits the DEFRA compilation).
Generally, initiatives like these are problematic at three levels.
Firstly, purely legally, specifically international trade law. Countries introducing these types of regimes (including the UK, Denmark, and now also Belgium) allege that all that is envisaged is consumer information, without any signal or pressure from government to boycott said products. That is cosmetic at best. One cannot seriously argue that given the current context, the ‘informative notice’ is not related to a political signal by the Belgian Government. Any consequences of the notice therefore in my view without doubt are sponsored by the Government and hence fall under WTO discipline. (Note that Palestine is not a WTO Member but Israel is). That same context feeds the argument that the introduction of a label of origin for the occupied Palestine territories serves to make all Israeli produce suspicious in the eyes of the Belgian consumer. That is a highly relevant angle for international trade law.
Secondly, the practical angle. A label of origin requirement is not new. The very existence of different agreements between Palestine, Israel and the EU requires it. Yet controlling those labels has proved impossible so far. Suggestions of lengthy preparation made me curious about the regime the Belgian Government would have devised. The answer is simply that is has devised none. The notice simply says
In order to clarify that these products originate from an Israeli settlement, the following labels are recommended: – ‘Product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)’ – ‘Product from the West Bank (Israeli settlement)’. For products from the West Bank that do not originate from settlements, the label ‘product from the West Bank (Palestinian product)’ is recommended.
There are no indications of who is supposed to attach the labels (‘the retail industry’), who will inspect them, what rules of origin percentages apply. etc.
I am not an economist and hence not in a position to advice whether boycotts such as these actually reach those against whom they are intended. (Which is the third level of problems). Neither am I a public international lawyer who sees clear in the myriad of territorial and other claims which sadly dog Israel-Palestine relations. I am however a litigator and in that capacity I have always preferred doing things with blazing guns once it comes down to boycotts, consumer driven or not: state your case and do not beat around the bush. This notice is disappointing in view of the noise created around it in recent days and it pussyfoots around the real Government intention.
With state succession comes a need for judicial re-organisation, as well as a series of practical considerations for the recognition and enforcement of judgments et al issued by authorities of the various States involved in the territorial dispute. The Crimea is a case in point. Anna Tkachova and Andriy Pozhidayev give a great overview first of the reorganisation of the courts, subsequently of the coinciding complication in recognition and enforcement of courts and tribunals in the respective parts of the country. A very good insight into both parts of the exercise: the formal, law-making part as well as the practical considerations for litigating parties.
Of note is that recognition and enforcement of decisions etc. by Ukrainian courts etc. in the Crimea, and of Russian courts etc. in the Crimea, are not covered by European conflict of laws (as indeed is the case for any third country judgments). Neither as far as I am aware are they covered by any of the export controls /sanctions issued by the EU either. (In contrast e.g. with import of goods from the disputed territories, covered by Regulation 692/2014 and corrigenda viz certificates of origin (linked to the EU-Ukraine association agreement, currently being ratified by the various Member States)).