Articles Developments in PIL Scholarship

Signalling the Enforceability of the Forum’s Judgments Abroad

Professor (and co-editor of this blog) Gilles Cuniberti has published a new article on SSRN, entitled Signalling the Enforceability of the Forum’s Judgments Abroad, where he addresses the already well documented issue of the rise of international commercial courts (and chambers), from a very specific point of view – that of the recognition of the local judgments abroad.

The long, already substantial introduction starts with what may look like a banal recollection

Private international law has traditionally been concerned with the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in the forum. In contrast, private international law does not address the recognition and enforcement of the judgments rendered by the courts of the forum in other jurisdictions.

But proves to be the perfect way to open the rich elaboration of thoughts. Indeed, as the author goes on saying, the customary lack of PIL rules dealing with the export of local decisions does not mean that States do not care for the fate of their judgments in other jurisdictions; they do. And while the assertion may surprise if one looks only at the limited success of all efforts to get to a multilateral convention on the enforcement of judgements, the broader view proves it is right. This wider picture points to what the author calls “a shift of paradigm”, where the new international commercial courts feature as main actors:

(i)n many parts of the world, adjudication began to be perceived as a business; a number of states established new courts, or new divisions in their courts, for the purpose of attracting judicial business (…) While these courts have different aims and goals, they all have in common the need to market themselves to potential users. And many have concluded that the enforceability of their judgments abroad is an essential dimension of their marketability.

From this point on, after some paragraphs on the New York Convention on the enforcement of arbitral awards, rightly recalling that the Convention does not guarantee enforcement of such awards, the article proceeds to document and assess the efforts made by international commercial courts to signal the enforceability of their judgments abroad. In a nutshell, three strategies have been developed to that effect:

The first and most obvious one has been to try to enter into agreements providing for the mutual enforcement of judgments of contracting states, which could serve the same function as the 1958 New York Convention for arbitral awards.

Secondly, in light of the limited scope of the 2005 Hague Convention, and with the 2019 Hague Convention not yet in force, alternative strategies have been developed. In this context, several international commercial courts are actively pursuing the conclusion of non binding documents with other courts suggesting that the judgments of the own forum would be enforced by the courts of other states. The aim of these bilateral or even multilateral memoranda, which clearly declare they do not constitute any kind of legislation, is basically to promote the mutual understanding of the law of the participating courts on enforcement of foreign judgments.

In addition, documents suggesting enforceability of judgments abroad are sometimes sought from private actors knowledgeable in the law of foreign judgments, such as academics or law firms. However, as Professor Cuniberti correctly points out, what such guides can bring in terms of signalling the enforceability of one’s courts decisions abroad may be disputed, and a little bit more is required if documents authored by private actors are to be accorded any signalling power.

The third strategy, so far limited to the courts on the Dubai International Financial Center, consist of converting judgments into arbitral awards.

The article ends up with a reflection on remedies in case of deceptive practice: if international commercial adjudication has become a business, with a number of courts acting as service providers – and as such, marketing their services- it would not be acceptable that they adopt strategies misleading potential customers. The article leaves quite open what the remedies should be. There may be, thus, a follow up.

The final version of this publication is included in the next issue of the Rivista di Diritto Internazionale Privato e Processuale.

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