Friday, 4 March 2011
Professor Joseph Weiler has now written about the judgment in the criminal libel case brought against him in a French court. A decision was handed down by the Tribunal de Grand Instance de Paris on 3 March 2011.
The details of the matter are outlined in an earlier post. In short, Professor Weiler was sued as editor of an online international law journal regarding a book review posted in the journal’s book review website. The book review was written by German academic Thomas Weigend, about a book written by Dr Karin Calvo-Goller. The review was not favorable.
The eventual result, after some correspondence between Professor Weiler and Dr. Calvo-Goller (please see my earlier post for details), was a criminal action for defamation brought in a French court against Professor Weiler. The trial took place in Paris on 20 January 2011.
According to Professor Weiler, the main arguments presented by the defense were:
1. The Court should not exercise jurisdiction, as the matter is too remote from France.
2. The Court should rule that the criminal complaint by Dr. Calvo-Goller amounted to an abuse of process.
The Court upheld both arguments. Regarding the jurisdictional issue, the Court appears to have ruled that the complainant had not sufficiently proved that the review in question was actually viewed in France during the period in which a criminal complaint needed to be filed.
Regarding the abuse of process issue, the Court noted that Dr. Calvo-Goller admitted to “forum shopping”. The Court noted that the choice of the French legal system was “artificial”, and was done because bringing the case in France would: be of lowest cost to her; give her the best chance of success on its merits, due to the nature of French law; and had the greatest potential to result in “both opprobrium and significant costs to the accused” (from an unofficial translation from the judgment).
Further, the Court noted that the review was not defamatory and that the complaint was brought in bad faith, particularly given her identity as a lawyer and someone who studied (and is thus familiar with) French law.
The Court awarded Professor Weiler 8,000 Euros in damages (approximately US$11,000). The damages will be donated to a charitable cause.
The full judgment in French and an English translation will be published on the journal’s blog in the next few days.
Update (4 March 2011): The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an article on the judgment, which includes a link to the judgment (in French), a copy of which was provided to The Chronicle by Professor Weiler.