Posts Tagged Enforcement
Many of you will have already seen (e.g. via Giesela Ruehl) the German Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH)’s refusal to recognise and enforce a Polish judgment under the Brussels I Regulation (application was made of Brussels I but the Recast on this issue has not materially changed). The BGH argued that enforcement would violate German public policy, notable freedom of speech and freedom of the press as embodied in the German Constitution.
Giesala has the necessary background. Crux of the refusal seemed to be that the Court found that to require ZDF to publish by way of a correction /clarification (a mechanism present in all Western European media laws), a text drafted by someone else as its own opinion would violate ZDF’s fundamental rights.
Refusal of course is rare and in this case, too, one can have misgivings about its application. The case however cannot be decoupled from the extremely strong sentiment for freedom of speech under German law, for obvious reasons, and the recent controversy surrounding the Polish law banning the use of the phrase ‘Polish concentration camps’.
I am very pleased to have been given approval by professor Burkhard Hess to publish the succinct comment on the case which he had sent me when the judgment was issued. I have included it below.
European private international law, second ed. 2016, Chapter 2, 18.104.22.168.1, 22.214.171.124.4
The German Federal Civil Court rejects the recognition of a Polish judgment in a defamation case under the Brussels I Regulation for violation of public policy
Burkhard Hess, Max Planck Institute Luxembourg
In 2013, the German broadcasting company ZDF (a public body) broadcast a film about Konzentrationcamps. In the film, it was (incorrectly) stated that Auschwitz and Majdanek were “Polish extermination camps”. Further to the protests made by the Polish embassy in Berlin, ZDF introduced the necessary changes in the film and issued an official apology. However, a former inmate of the KZ, brought a civil lawsuit in Poland claiming violation of his personality rights. With his claim he sought remedy in the form of the broadcasting company (ZDF) publishing on its Internet home page both a declaration that the history of the Polish people had been falsified in the film and a statement of apology. Ultimately, the Cracow Court of Appeal ordered the publication of the declaration on the company’s home page. While ZDF published the text on its website visibly for one month, it did not post it on its home page.
Consequently, the plaintiff sought the recognition of the Polish judgment in Germany under the Brussels I Regulation. However, the German Federal Court denied the request for recognition on the grounds that it would infringe on German public policy (article 34 No 1 Regulation (EU) 44/2001). In its ruling, the Court referred to the freedom of the press and of speech (article 5 of the Constitution) and to the case-law of the Constitutional Court. The Court stated that the facts had been incorrectly represented in the film. However, it held that, under German law, ordering a declaration of apology qualifies as ordering a declaration of opinion (Meinungsäusserung) and that, according to the fundamental freedom of free speech, nobody can be obliged to make a declaration which does not correspond to his or her own opinion (the right to reply is different as it clearly states that the reply is made by the person entitled to the reply). As a result, the Polish judgment was not recognized.
BGH, 19 July 2018, IX ZB 10/18, The judgment can be downloaded here.
To my knowledge, this is one of the very rare cases where a foreign judgment was refused recognition in Germany under article 34 no 1 of the Brussels I Regulation (now article 45 (1) (a) Brussels Ibis Regulation) because substantive public policy was infringed.
Speaking frankly, I’m not convinced by the decision. Of course, the text which the ZDF, according to the Cracow court, had to make as its own statement represented a so-called expression of opinion. Its imposition is not permissible under German constitutional law: requiring the ZDF-television to making this expression its own would have amounted to an infringement of the freedom of speech as guaranteed by article 5 of the Constitution.
However, it corresponds to well settled principles of the recognition of judgments to substitute the operative part of the foreign judgment by a formula which comes close to it. This (positive) option is totally missing in the formalistic judgment of the Federal Civil Court. In this respect I’m wondering why the BGH did not simply order that the operative part of the Polish judgment as such was declared enforceable. My proposed wording of a declaration of enforceability would be drafted as follows: “According to the judgment of the Appellate Court of Krakow the ZDF is required to publish the following decision:…”
This solution would have solved the problem: No constitutional conflict would have arisen and the political issues would have mitigated. Seen from that perspective, the judgment appears as a missed opportunity.
Reminiscent of the decision in Yukos v Tomskneft, which concerned recognition of an arbitral award in Ireland even though there were no relevant assets to exercise enforcement against, the Irish Court of Appeal earlier this year in  IECA 46 Albaniabeg v Enel upheld  IEHC 139 Albaniabeg Ambient Sh.p.k. -v- Enel S.p.A. & Anor . (See my tweet below at the time – the case got stuck in my blog queue).
Thank you to Julie Murphy-O’Connor, and Gearóid Carey for flagging the case earlier in the year. The High Court had refused to grant plaintiff, Albaniabeg, liberty to serve out of the jurisdiction to seek to enforce a judgment of an Albanian court in Ireland against the two defendants, ENEL S.p.A. and ENEL Power S.p.A. (“ENEL”). The judgment therefore is ex-EU.
Enforcement proceedings were commenced in New York, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and Ireland in relation to the Judgment. [I have not been able to locate outcome in those cases]. Notably no enforcement proceedings were brought in Italy. Presumably plaintiff’s motif is to obtain enforcement in one Member State, to ease the enforcement paths in other Member States (including Italy).
McDermott J at the High Court refused the application on the basis that the defendants had no assets within the jurisdiction and were not likely to have such assets in the near future. As the judge concluded that the plaintiff did not stand to gain any practical benefits if enforcement proceedings were to be commenced within this jurisdiction, he refused to grant them leave to serve such proceedings out of the jurisdiction on the defendants.
Hogan J at the Court of Appeal upheld. At 59 he notes ‘I should state in passing that it was not suggested that if an Irish court were to grant an order providing for the recognition or enforcement under own rules of private international law of the Albanian judgment, this then would be a “judgment” for the purposes of Article 2(a) of the Brussels Regulation (recast) which could then be enforced in other Member States under the simplified enforcement procedure provided for by Chapter III of that Regulation. As this point was not argued before us, it is not necessary to express any view on it.‘
In my Handbook I suggest such order is not a ‘judgment’ within the meaning of the Brussels I Recast Regulation.
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 126.96.36.199.1.
Belgian constitutional court’s ruling on vulture funds fails properly to answer arguments on the basis of EU law.
I have reported earlier on the action of MNL Capital against the 2015 Belgian Vulture Fund Act (my EN translation here), on which I have a paper here. I then reported on a related action (where MNL were joined by Yukos).
At the end of May the Belgian Constitutional Court, ruling 61/2018, rejected an MNL challenge to the Act, which was based inter alia on an alleged infringement of the Brussels I Recast Regulation: at A.23.2: MNL argued that Belgium cannot across the board reject vulture funds activities (I agree) based on an absolute ordre public argument against them: MNL suggested this entails a one-sided reading of ordre public in favour of foreign entities refusing to honour their debt.
Due in large part to the peculiarities of constitutional review in Belgium, the Court at B.15.4 looked at the argument purely from a non-discrimination point of view: creditors who have obtained a foreign judgment against a State are no better or worse off than those having obtained such ruling from a Belgian court.
In essence therefore the arguments on the basis of EU law are left entirely unanswered.
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.16, Heading 188.8.131.52.4.
Szpunar AG in C‑379/17 Società Immobiliare Al Bosco: the impact of the lex fori executionis re preservation orders.
Is it compatible with Article 38(1) Brussels I (and the equivalent provisions in the Brussels I Recast) to apply a time limit which is laid down in the law of the State in which enforcement is sought, and on the basis of which an instrument may no longer be enforced after the expiry of a particular period, also to a functionally comparable instrument issued in another Member State and recognised and declared enforceable in the State in which enforcement is sought?
A preservation order had been obtained in Italy. It had been recognised in Germany. However applicant then failed to have it enforced within a time-limit prescribed by the lex fori executionis.
On 20 June Szpunar AG in C‑379/17 Società Immobiliare Al Bosco opined (Opinion not yet available in English) that the lex fori executionis’ time limits must not obstruct enforcement. Moreover, he suggests that his view is not impacted by the changes to exequatur in the Brussels I Recast, and that his Opinion, based on the effet utile of the Brussels regime, has appeal even outside the case at issue (in which Italian law has a similar proviso).
A small but significant step in the harmonisation process of European civil procedure.
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.16
Rulings on costs and their impact on the effet utile of EU civil procedure. The High Court in PABLO STAR re copyright infringement.
In  EWHC 2541 (IPEC) Pablo Star Media v Richard Bowen the issue was one over copyright infringement relating to a photograph of Dylan Thomas. Of interest to this blog is not the copyright issue or the height of damages relating to same – I am not a specialist in that area. (As far as the jurisdictional issues are concerned, there is a slightly muddled reference to the Brussels I Recast and various other Regulations including Regulation 542/2014 which I discussed here).
What did trigger my interest, though, is the ruling on costs.
At 33-34 Hacon J quotes the District Judge’s reasoning for obliging claimant (Pablo Star) to pay part of the defendant’s cost, despite having won the case. In that cost award, the District Judge scolds claimant for having initiated proceedings in Ireland as well as the UK, and for considering (or threatening, as the case may be) litigation in the US. The High Court at 38 and 41 leaves aside the proceedings in Ireland as a factor to consider, and now limits the reasoning for the award on cost to the potential proceedings in the US.
Now, costs determination largely is within the realm of national rules of civil procedure. Sometimes, EU and /or international law has a direct impact on cost determination, such as for instance in the case of Aarhus and environmental litigation; or, importantly for the case at issue, Directive 2004/48 on intellectual property rights enforcement (the enforcement Directive). This Directive provides in Article 14 on legal costs
‘Member States shall ensure that reasonable and proportionate legal costs and other expenses incurred by the successful party shall, as a general rule, be borne by the unsuccessful party, unless equity does not allow this.’
That Directive was applied in CJEU C-57/15 UVP v Telenet, expressly condemning Belgium’s restrictive regime on cost recovery in intellectual property cases. The High Court’s finding on cost may to my mind be at odds with that ruling.
More generally, the District Judge’s reference to claimant’s Irish proceedings contributing to the judge’s finding on cost, without a doubt is an infringement of the effet utile of the EU’s jurisdictional regimes. Claimant has a certain right to sue in Ireland and that possibility must in no way be disciplined. Hacon J at the High Court, purposely or not, may have insulated himself from criticism at this point, by leaving the Irish proceedings outside the consideration and only referring to the threat of US proceedings as relevant for partially shifting costs to the plaintiff.
Absolute numbers in the case are not high. Yet the principle to my mind deserves right to appeal at the CA and, from there on, potentially to the CJEU.
Update 8 November 2017 thank you Dan Svantesson for alerting me to Google seeking preliminary injuntive relief against the order’s enforement in the US. relief which, update 5 February 2018, was granted.
Thank you Stephen Pittel for alerting me to 2017 SCC 34 Google Inc. v Equustek Solutions Inc. – alternative review ia here, and apologies for my late reporting: the case came to my attention late June. I have of course posted before on various aspects of worldwide removal and other orders, particularly in the context of the EU’s ‘right to be forgotten’.
Equustek sued Datalink for various intellectual property violations and found alleged insufficient co-operation from Google in making it difficult for users to come across Datalink’s offerings. Google seemingly did not resist jurisdiction, but did resist the injunction and any ex-Canada effect of same.
The majority in the case however essentially applied an effet utile consideration: if as it found it did, it has in personam jurisdiction over defendant, an extraterritorial reach is not problematic if that is the only way to make the order effective. An order limited to searches or websites in Canada would not have addressed the harm: see Stephen’s verbatim comment (referring to para 38 of the judgment). Google was ordered to de-index globally.
Dissenting opinions suggested Datalink could be sued in France, too, however this I suppose does not address the effet utile consideration of the majority.