Archive for category General

Publish and rule. The Belgian Supreme Court on scholarship and the judiciary.

Thank you Jelle Flo for alerting us to the succinct Belgian Supreme Court ruling of 21 November 2018. A judge had published a scholarly piece on an issue of law, in tempore non suspecto, expressing a point of view which the Advocate General at the Court (here effectively acting as an amicus curiae) in a later specific case, agrees with.

The judiciary does publish regularly-ish. As do solicitors and barristers. For those of us who teach as well as practice, this at most leads to interesting times when opposing counsel or the bench points out a scholarly piece seemingly expressing a different point of view than our submissions; ordinarily, things are distinguishable…

For the judiciary, the Supreme Court sees no issue as long as the piece meets with scientific standards: ‘Le fait qu’un juge ait adopté un point de vue sur une question juridique dans une publication scientifique n’implique pas qu’il ne dispose plus de l’impartialité requise pour connaître d’un litige abordant ce sujet, pourvu qu’il ait développé sa pensée dans le respect des règles de la science du droit.’

The Court does not express guidance on what such standard might be – peer review perhaps comes to mind.

Geert.

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Bento Rodrigues (Samarco dam victims) v BHP Billiton in the English courts. A new CSR marker.

The media have been reporting on a considerable class action lawsuit, underway in the English courts, in the Corporate Social Responsibility /mass torts category.

The class action case was filed against Anglo-Australian company BHP Billiton on behalf of 240,000 individuals, 24 municipal governments, 11,000 businesses, a Catholic archdiocese and about 200 members of the Krenak indigenous community. It concerns victims of the Samarco dam collapse in Mariana three years ago.

I am reporting the case simply to ensure complete overview of the CSR /jurisdiction /applicable law issues reported on the blog. For as I am co-counsel acting for the claimants, I am not in a position to comment on the case until and if legal analysis will be in the public domain.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 8, Heading 8.3.

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Lloyd v Google. High Court rejects jurisdiction viz US defendant, interprets ‘damage’ in the context of data protection narrowly.

Update 11 December 2018 leave to appeal applied for.

Warby J in  [2018] EWHC 2599 (QB) Lloyd v Google (a class action suit with third party financing) considers, and rejects, jurisdiction against Google Inc (domiciled in the US) following careful consideration (and distinction) of the Vidal Hall (‘Safari users) precedent.

Of note is that the jurisdictional gateway used is the one in tort, which requires among others an indication of damage. In Vidal Hall, Warby J emphasises, that damage consisted of specific material loss or emotional harm which claimants had detailed in confidential court findings (all related to Google’s former Safari turnaround, which enabled Google to set the DoubleClick Ad cookie on a device, without the user’s knowledge or consent, immediately, whenever the user visited a website that contained DoubleClick Ad content.

In essence, Warby J suggests that both EU law (reference is made to CJEU precedent under Directive 90/314) and national law tends to suggest that “damage” has been extended in various contexts to cover “non-material damage” but only on the proviso that “genuine quantifiable damage has occurred”.

Wrapping up, at 74: “Not everything that happens to a person without their prior consent causes significant or any distress. Not all such events are even objectionable, or unwelcome. Some people enjoy a surprise party. Not everybody objects to every non-consensual disclosure or use of private information about them. Lasting relationships can be formed on the basis of contact first made via a phone number disclosed by a mutual friend, without asking first. Some are quite happy to have their personal information collected online, and to receive advertising or marketing or other information as a result. Others are indifferent. Neither category suffers from “loss of control” in the same way as someone who objects to such use of their information, and neither in my judgment suffers any, or any material, diminution in the value of their right to control the use of their information. Both classes would have consented if asked. In short, the question of whether or not damage has been sustained by an individual as a result of the non-consensual use of personal data about them must depend on the facts of the case. The bare facts pleaded in this case, which are in no way individualised, do not in my judgment assert any case of harm to the value of any claimant’s right of autonomy that amounts to “damage”…”

The judgment does not mean that misuse of personal data cannot be disciplined under data protection laws (typically: by the data protection authorities) or other relevant national courses of action. But where it entails a non-EU domiciled party, and the jurisdictional gateway of ‘tort’ is to be followed, ‘damage’ has to be shown.

Geert.

 

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Unstunned slaughter and organic labelling. Wahl AG opines in light of scope of harmonisation.

Wahl AG advised  last week in Case C-497/17, Oeuvre d’assistance aux bêtes d’abattoirs. In this case an NGO requests a certification body to stop certifying as ‘organic’, products obtained from religious slaughter, even though neither Council Regulation 834/2007 nor the Commission implementing Regulation 889/2008 on organic production and labelling of organic products with regard to organic production, labelling and control, mention stunned or unstunned slaughter.

I suggested earlier that the case turns around scope of application, albeit that the shadow of the human rights implications hangs over it. The Advocate General agrees: at 33: ‘the Court is therefore not strictly speaking required to rule on a question of interference with the freedom to manifest one’s religion’. In essence, what is not forbidden is allowed: the legislation on organic farming is silent on the question of ritual slaughter; (at 91) this silence on the matter is not the result of oversight for the ‘slaughter’ of animals is mentioned on several occasions in the legislation – is it just simply not regulated.

I believe the AG is right. I also, on substance, believe that unstunned slaughter, properly carried out, meets with the ethos of organic farming.

Geert.

 

 

 

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Akhter v Khan. Nikah in the High Court.

As Williams J notes at 5, [2018] EWFC 54 Akhter v Khan is not about

whether an Islamic marriage ceremony (a Nikah) should be treated as creating a valid marriage in English law. In fact, the main issue as it has emerged is almost diametrically the opposite of that question; namely whether a Nikah marriage ceremony creates an invalid or void marriage in English law. To the average non-lawyer in 2018, it may appear an easy question to answer. Surely a marriage which is not a valid marriage is a void marriage and thus can be annulled? Regrettably it is not that simple.

The Guardian explain here why it is not that simple, and Ralf Michaels has analysis here. In essence (the remainder of this para is largely based on Ralf’s text), many muslims in the UK only perform Nikah and not a civil ceremony. The latter is firmly required under English law (indeed under the law of many European countries; where unlike in the English example, a religious ceremony must not even double up as a civil one, and the latter must always precede the religious one). Nikah hitherto had been considered a non-marriage which the law could ignore, because it did not even purport to comply with the requirements of English law. The High Court was unwilling to presume the lived marriage as valid.

Williams J however declared the marriage at issue void under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. The wife was granted a decree of nullity. This has extremely relevant consequences in terms of ‘matrimonial’ property, and maintenance obligations, including those vis-a-vis the children. The Court’s analysis of human rights law is extensive, including of course with the ECHR gateway (via the Human Rights Act 1998) and the UNRC: the UN Convention on the Right of the Child. In this respect Williams J’s analysis is not unlike that of classic ordre public considerations: which are always case-specific and take into account the hardship caused to the individuals involved, were a foreign legal concept not recognised in the forum.

The Court has set an important precedent – but like all precedent of course there is case-specificity (the length of the lived marriage, the children,…

Of note is that applicable law in the case was firmly English law. Recognition of the marriage as such in the UAE did play a role in the judge’s assessment.

All in all an important case viz the discussion on multiculturality and family law in Europe.

Geert.

 

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SRCL LIMITED. Citing academics in the common law.

[2018] EWHC 1985 (TCC) SRCL Limited is a procurement case and therefore generally outside the remit of this blog. However it is a useful reminder of the common law’s approach to citing academic authority:

Fraser J discusses it at 180 ff: ‘The historic common law convention was that academic views could only be cited as authority in courts if the author was dead, and if the work in question had achieved a level of respectability in any event. There was also, perhaps, a third requirement (although it could be seen as a subset of the second) that the author themselves had to have been either a judge or practitioner. Professor Arrowsmith is very much alive, and has a high reputation as an academic in the field of procurement law.’

Reference is made to Lord Neuberger’s 2012 lecture “Judges and Professors – Ships passing in the night?”, including discussion of what may have been a compelling reason for the rule or convention: at 181: ‘A dead author cannot change their mind. Although Lord Neuberger was not convinced that this was a good reason, it does have the merit of certainty.’

At 182: ‘The conclusion of Lord Neuberger is clear however – the convention has now been eroded, and there is a dialogue between judges and academics to the benefit of all. Textbooks of living authors are regularly cited in court – they do not have the same status as judgments under the doctrine of stare decisis, but they are persuasive and the views of an academic such as Professor Arrowsmith do have weight in this arena.’

When I earlier shared the judgment on Linked-in, one of my contacts justifiably mentioned that the love (lost) between academia and the courts in the UK might be mutual: the suggestion was that too much scholarly analysis disregards practice implications too readily.

By way of conclusion, as professor Arrowsmith herself noted, ‘The fact that I am, fortunately, still alive, was just one of the important issues discussed in a recent High Court case on procurement. …For the record, it was decided that my views are highly persuasive – but not as important as they might be if I were dead.’

Geert.

 

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Ceci n’est pas un corbillard. (This is not a hearse).

Readers can file this one under ‘exotic’. The title of this piece does not quite give it away yet: this post is a serious post on customs classification.

My wife and I have a more than average size family, ditto therefore also the family car. Our previous version was black. We had parked it a few summers ago on the village square close to the home of one of my sisters in law, a sleepy French hamlet. A local lady came up to me and asked respectfully who had passed away… She mistook our car for a hearse, leading to my brother-in-law suggesting I should put some stickers up saying ‘ceci n’est pas un corbillard’.

Now, to the serious issue: in Case C-445/17 Pilato, the Court of Justice was asked (the case was triggered by a BTI: Binding Tariff Information) how to classify a hearse under the EU’s combined nomenclature: heading 8704 (motor vehicles for the transport of goods); 8705 (special purpose motor vehicles, other than those principally designed for the transport of persons or goods (for example, breakdown lorries, crane lorries, fire fighting vehicles, concrete-mixer lorries, road sweeper lorries, spraying lorries, mobile workshops, mobile radiological units); or 8703 (Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons (other than those of heading 8702), including station wagons and racing cars).

The Italian customs authorities have classified under 8703 – the importer is appealing, I am assuming given the higher tariff attracted by that heading. Arguments are very serious and technical, as one would expect for customs classification: details on separation racks, etc.

The Court held Wednesday last: at 25: the intended use of a product may constitute an objective criterion for classification; at 30: hearses are particularly built and equipped for the transport of coffins, which contain corpses. A human body, even lifeless, cannot be treated in the same way as goods which may be the subject, as such, of commercial transactions. Therefore, the principal use of hearses is for the transport of persons. 8703 it is (the Court gives some more reasons).

Exactly the kind of case which makes trade classes a little lighter a the right time (the best case for that, ever, involved my wife having to classify a shipment of toy replica. Details on that case I fear are strictly for students of my WTO class).

Geert.

 

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