Posts Tagged New York

Dankor. On the perils of forgetting to exclude renvoi in choice of law and court agreements.

It is one of the pinnacle theories of conflict of laws and when first introducing students to it, they almost invariably respond glassy-eyed. Renvoi has an unlimited ability to surprise parties and courts alike. It is best excluded, either by Statute, or by the parties, but frankly to be on the safe side: always and everywhere best by both. (Lest there are well considered arguments not to do so in a specific instance. As readers of my book know, the Brussels I Recast provisions on renvoi for choice of court (complicating less fori prorogati) is not such an instance: Handbook 2016, p.128-129, Heading 2.2.9.4.2).

At issue in Dankor [Dancor Construction, Inc. v. FXR Construction, Inc., 2016 IL App (2d) 150839] was the choice of court and governing law clause cited by the court at 44:

“The parties agree that this agreement was executed in Kane County, Illinois and shall be governed by the law of the State of Illinois. Any claims, lawsuits, disputes or claims arising out of or relating to this agreement shall be litigated in Kane County, Illinois.”

This clause could be a boilerplate or midnight clause except those routinely do exclude renvoi. ‘The law of the State of Illinois’ in the clause would then be followed by ‘excluding its choice of law rules’ or something of the kind. Why it was dropped here is entirely unclear. As Clifford Shapiro writes ‘So what happens when an Illinois general contractor fires a New York subcontractor who was working on a New York project under a subcontract that required Illinois law to apply and litigation to take place in Illinois? Unfortunately for litigants, what can happen is nearly three years of jurisdictional litigation in both New York and Illinois, and then dismissal of the Illinois case less than 60 days before trial with an order directing the case to be re-filed in New York.’

As the court notes (at 69) choice of court and choice of governing law are separate issues (for that reason they are als best dealt with in clearly separated contractual clauses). Relevant precedent for the validity of the former is Rieker 378 Ill. App. 3d 77, 86 (2007). Applying Rieker, and following Section 187(2) of the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws, the Court held (reference is best made to Clifford’s summary or to the judgment itself) that New York law applied to the validity of the clause, leading to its being void: New York law mandatorily prohibits application of another State’s law or litigation outside of the State for New York construction projects (Illinois incidentally has a mirror provision).

Need one say more? Renvoi is always best excluded. It would not necessarily have made this clause enforceable: ordre public discussions could always still be raised. However it sure as anything would have made the validity of the clause much more likely.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 1, Heading 1.4).

 

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A little pousse-cafe. Gaz de France v STS: annulment of arbitral award on grounds of ordre public.

Something to digest quietly, to start this new year: in Gaz de France v STS the French Conseil d’Etat annuled an arbitral award for breach of ordre public. The Conseil objected in particular to the panel’s denial of mandatory French (administrative) law. Reed Smith have analysis here, including of the issue on jurisdiction (Conseil d’Etat or Court de Cassation).

Upon reading the judgment, my question is this (just putting it in the group, as it were): does the Conseil have terminology right where it seems to classify breach of mandatory law as a violation of ordre public (it is the latter only which justifies annulment under the New York Convention)? Incidentally (at 5) it also refers to the possibility of mandatory EU law being part of this interpretation of ordre public. This structure is clearly inspired by the Rome I Regulation where, as I have noted before, the presence of mandatory law, overriding mandatory law, and ordre public, is causing confusion.

Happy New Year, happy reading, Geert.

 

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Compensation, nature conservation and New York Law – The USSC in Koontz

In Koontz, the United States Supreme Court further specified the limitations applicable to agencies when they  impose limitations to the use of private property. In Koontz, under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), the owner of the land was denied wetland related permits. The relevant agency had demanded that Koontz either reduce the scope of the project and accept limiting conditions of use over the remainder, or finance conservation-related improvements to publicly held land some distance away.

The Supreme Court had earlier held in Nolan per the regulatory taking doctrine, that there must be an “essential nexus” between a “legitimate state interest” and the condition that the reviewing agency seeks to impose. In Koontz, it applies this limitation not just to the restrictions which the owner of the land has to accept vis-a-vis his own property, but also to any other government measure which imposed a financial burden on said owner. The lower courts had argued that the Nolan criteria do not apply to demands for money. The Supreme Court held that they do.

The finer details may escape me (see for excellent analysis Daniel Richmond and in Jeremy Kozin in the New York Law Journal) however it would seem that there is excellent comparative analysis to be made re the laws on regulatory takings and compensation measures in nature conservation.

Geert (thank you to Ludo Veuchelen for alerting me to the judgment).

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Fuss rather than fizz. New York court’s reversal of ‘soda bucket ban’ only the first shot.

The New York State Supreme Court, in what I understand to be a decision of the interlocutory type and subject to appeal, has held as unconstitutional (vis-a-vis the NY Constitution, that is) the NY City Board of Health’s decision to limit the size of sugary soft drinks or ‘sodas’ sold in restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas at 16 ounces a cup. That’s 473 millilitres, slightly less than half a litre (500 millilitres or 50 cl) or roughly 100 ml less than what in the UK would be a pint (568 ml).  473 millilitres therefore would be the new maximum size – I have no experience with the current standard size however I understand that by default it must be much bigger than what is now being proposed. I remember some years back reading about a lawsuit in the US against Chrysler, whose new Voyager people carrier had cup holders which could not hold a one litre soda cup (one assumes this was a suit of the rather desperate type however one never knows).

Justice Milton Tingling essentially held that the Board’s decision trespasses on the powers of the legislative body, the City Council. Separation of powers, therefore, or Agency /delegation of powers, has decided this first shot in the soda war. Justice Tingling mentioned specifically that the judgment is not about the obesity epidemic, if any, and /or the contribution of soda drinks to same (he does remark that infringement of the separation of powers ‘(…) has the potential to be more troubling than sugar sweetened beverages’).

How far a State should go in regulating the unhealthy habits of its citisens is very much of the essence in this case – as is the importance for New York to somehow establish the link between practices targeted, and unwanted consequences on people’s health, the national health service, and the public purse. In the EU, this would create interesting musing under the precautionary principle (see also EFTA’s widely criticised Philip Morris judgment, which I have previously referred to). Appeal has already been announced.

Geert.

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