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JILT 1997 (3) - Twinkle Egan

Proposed Scheme for

The Centralised European Union Convention Cause Book
and Judgment Registry Data Base

Twinkle Egan
Barrister-at-Law
twinkle@cyberia.ie

Contents
1. The 'Scheme'
2. Why is a 'Scheme' Needed?
3. How would it Operate?
4. The Data
5. Effect of Implementation on:-
  5.1 Individual rights
  5.2 Investors' rights
  5.3 Advisers
  5.4 Inherent delays
  5.5 Integration of legal procedures
6. The Commission
7. Conclusion
8. Feedback
9. Links
10. Acknowledgements

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This is a Work in Progress article published on 31 October 1997.

Citation: Egan T, 'Proposed Scheme for The Centralised European Union Convention Cause Book and Judgment Registry Data Base', Work in Progress, 1997 (3) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/wip/97_3egan/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1997_3/egan/>


1. The 'Scheme'

The establishment of the Centralised E.U. Convention Causebook and Judgment Registry Database to be located in Ireland. (http://columbo.cyberia.ie/~twinkle/speech.html - This link contains the speech given on the 26th October, 1996 in Trinity College, with updated annexes thereto. It charts the background history of the ever evolving Brussels Convention, the amendments since made thereto, culminating in the arrival of the Brussels Convention into the Electronic Information Age in which we now live and its potential scope and development therein.)

Ownership and Location of the 'Scheme'.

The Author, who as owner of all the intellectual property rights in the 'Scheme', has assigned her European interest therein on behalf of the peoples of Ireland to the E.U. subject to and in consideration of the E.U. providing the full capital funding for the setting up of the 'Scheme' in Ireland. (http://columbo.cyberia.ie:80/~twinkle/location.html - This link contains some graphical highlights of the Scheme.)

Endorsement of the 'Scheme'

We are delighted to announce that the 'Scheme' has been vetted and endorsed by many institutions, including the following:-

  • The International Bar Association
  • The General Council of the Bar of Ireland
  • The Law Society of Ireland
  • The Stock Exchange
  • The Insurance Institute of Ireland
  • The Insurance Federation of Ireland
  • The Chamber of Commerce
  • The Maritime Law Association
  • University College Dublin
  • The University of Limerick
  • Telecom Eireann
  • ACC Bank
  • Dunn and Bradstreet (Stubbs Gazette)
  • The Industrial Development Authority (IDA)
  • The Comsumers' Association of Ireland

The IDA have recommended a Pan European Feasibility Study be carried out. Subject to the E.U. Commission in Brussels showing an interest in the Scheme, the IDA are prepared to fund this study.

Many lawyers, both practising and academic, including members of the Judiciary have also reviewed the proposal and support has been expressed from many quarters.

The European Ombudsman is investigating our complaint against the European Council regarding the handling and dealing by the E.U. Institutions of the Case for the Establishment of the Database. The text of the complaint to the European Ombudsman (http://columbo.cyberia.ie:80/~twinkle/ombudsman.html), The letter confirming investigation by the European Ombudsman (http://columbo.cyberia.ie:80/~twinkle/investigate.html), and the latest Update from the European Ombudsman (http://columbo.cyberia.ie:80/~twinkle/update.html), detailing that he has asked the Council to comment on the complaint before October 31 1997, are all available online.

2. Why is Such a 'Scheme' Needed

The Law has to be certain to be effective, to be effective it must be efficient, to be efficient it must now be electronic.

The E.U. with the adhesion of the EFTA states comprises in excess of 372 million people - over a fifth of world trade; with the proposed new member states, these figures will dramatically increase.

Despite the 1968 Brussels Convention as amended and extended no simple, speedy and cost effective centralised infrastructure, linking together the Partner States, exists to operate the Brussels Convention. Thus the full benefits of the Single European Market are not being realised.

An electronic centralised Causebook and Judgments Registry database is required :-

  • To protect and access quickly an individual's claim in a product liability action. (it's official every year in Europe, 40 million citizens are injured, 80,000 citizens are killed and 300,000 E.U. citizens are left with a permanent disability in accidents involving consumer goods.)
  • It is said that the Customer (be he consumer or investor) is King, but the King is in his birthday-suit without the implementaion of this Scheme.
  • To protect copyrights and to prevent piracy
  • To counteract commercial fraud
  • To assist multiparty actions
  • To enforce a foreign judgment without delay
  • To stimulate capital investment and its protection throughout the E.U. and thus create more jobs and opportunities for our citizens. (54% of all new companies worldwide go "bust" within their first 5 years)
  • To provide the infrastructure necessary for the European Market to utilize Electronic Commerce - the expected size of which (according to the International Data Corporation) will have risen from $2.6 Billion dollars in 1996 to $220 Billion during 2001.
  • To enable the Commission to monitor the compliance of companies and their products with the international standards - and to act on breaches.
  • To enable MEPs to act as "watchdogs" independently and over the Commission.
  • To therefore ensure that the E.U. in this globalised world has a framework to advance the world's economic and social destiny.

So that citizens of the Community and others can have prompt and easy access to authoritative and up-to-date information in relation to the existence and progress of Litigation in which they may have a legitimate interest.

3. How Would the 'Scheme' Operate?

At present if proceedings are instituted in Ireland under the Convention against an English company for damage caused by faulty goods - there is only a record of those proceedings in Ireland.

Yet at the same time proceedings could be instituted in Germany under the Convention against the exact same English company for similar faulty goods - and again there would only be a record of those proceedings in Germany.

Thus at present no record of either sets of proceedings would appear on any search or check undertaken by anyone in England against the English company.

Further if for example an American businessman wanted to invest $2m in the English company no search undertaken on his behalf would disclose the Irish or German proceedings in being, but not served, instituted under the Convention against the English company. A 'due diligence' requirement cannot disclose Proceedings in being which have not been served.

Under the proposed 'Scheme' the key information contained in the Irish and German court record files would now be transferred onto a centralised database for on-line access by interested parties.

4. The Data

It is proposed that the data to be stored about each convention case, being extracts from the court records would be submitted and made available in a standard tabular form as in the linked form (http://columbo.cyberia.ie:80/~twinkle/sample-contents.html) which illustrates the information which would now be available from the Centralised Database.
As can be seen there from:

  • Column 1
  • Identifies the name of the Plaintiff;
  • the country of origin under the 1968 Convention from which the proceedings were instituted;
  • the record and file number of the Action in the country of the action.
  • Column 2
  • identifies the name of the Defendant;
  • identifies the domicile of the Defendant for Convention purposes.
  • Column 3
  • entitled 'Status'
  • informs one whether the proceedings are live/dead/settled and whether judgment/orders have been given, registered, are under appeal or transmitted, as the case may be.
  • Column 4
  • identifies the subject matter of the Action.
  • Column 5
  • identifies breach of an international standard, if applicable.

The form is an illustration only and the exact method of implementing the database structure, queries and searches and of providing the data to the user is under consideration and can only be finalised after agreement with the Court officials of the several States involved.

5. Effect of Implementation of the 'Scheme' on:-

5.1 Individual rights and their protection

A person injured by a product/component part would now be able to check whether similar cases have been instituted by other persons in other E.U. jurisdictions by a check search against Column 5 of the 'Scheme'.

This in turn would enable the Commission to step in and check out the product, or to stop distribution of same, or recall the product, as a result of which the International Development Standard might need to be up-graded. Likewise M.E.P.s would be able to act as 'watchdogs' to ensure that the Commission will so act.

5.2 Investors' rights and their protection

A potential investor would be able to check search a company under Column 2 or the product under Column 5, and then the status of any legal proceedings under Column 3.

5.3 Advisers

Advisers, be they legal, financial, commercial, or otherwise would be in a position of giving opinions on facts as distinct from qualified opinions, which are now the order of the day.

5.4 Inherent delays

The 'Scheme' would reduce the existing delays by its speed of collection, collation and dissemination of information, up-date and transmission.

5.5 Integration of legal procedures

The 'Scheme' would integrate legal procedures throughout the E.U. Domestic Courts, would facilitate the Courts, and would further improve the administrative efficiency of Trans-European or Inter-Community Case Law.

6. The Commission

Peter Sutherland as Chairman of the H.L.M. Committee, highlighted the existing problems in his Report to the Commission entitled 'The Internal Market After 1992 - Meeting the Challenge' published 28/10/92 and concluded:-

'At its simplest, our message is that action must be taken now by the European institutions and Member States..... to overcome consumer uncertainty, local or sectoral resistance to change, and commercial and industrial anxieties........ The challenge now is to reassure the consumer and to capture the imagination of business, particularly the smaller firm, that the rules of a really frontier free market will be applied across the Community. When this is achieved the internal market will truly be seen as the basic stepping stone in the construction of Europe.'

To date E.U. Commission Endorsement for the 'Scheme' has not been obtained. Click here (http://columbo.cyberia.ie:80/~twinkle/against.html) to view the arguments against the 'Scheme' as put forward on behalf of D.G. 15 E.I. of the Commission (the section which deals with the Internal Market and Financial Services)

However, I remain of the opinion, encouraged by the endorsements received to-date that the 'Scheme' though innovative and radical is fundamentally sound and would be of enormous benefit to all in the construction and development of the Single European Market.

It has been suggested that a Working Committee be set up in Luxembourg consisting of representatives from each jurisdiction (to be funded by the E.U.) to evaluate the 'Scheme' and furnish a report to the Commission.

7. Conclusion

'What is the argument on the other side? Only this, that no case has been found in which it has been done before. That argument does not appeal to me in the least. If we never do anything which has not been done before, we shall never get anywhere. The law will stand still whilst the rest of the world goes on: and that will be bad for both'

Per Denning L.J. in Packer v. Packer [1953] 2 AER l27 at p.l29.

'In civilised life law floats in a sea of ethics.
Each is indispensable to civilisation.
Without law we would be at the mercy of the least scrupulous.
Without ethics law could not exist.'

Per Chief Justice Earl Warren of the United States

Having regard to the attitude of members of the EU Commission and Council todate, we call upon everyone interested in the development of Europe, in the immortal words of Jacques Cousteau:

'It is time for us to unite and to adopt the strategy of the Dolphins. Pursued by a large shark, a pack of Dolphins will suddenly turn en masse, dive below the shark and drive their blunt noses into its belly, one after another. It is the perfect strategy. With no ribs or diaphragm to protect its vital organs, the shark is vulnerable. For all its power the shark is depleted by the knowledge, intelligence and sheer force of numbers'

8. Feedback

The author would appreciate comment and suggestions from legal and business interests on this proposal by mail to the author at:

The Law Library, P.O. Box 2424, The Four Courts, Dublin 7, Ireland

or by e-mail at twinkle@cyberia.ie or you can fill in our Comment Box below. If you are in favour of the scheme please make representations to your M.E.P. and/or to the Government agencies - If you are outside of Europe or the EFTA States please make representations to the European Parliament directly. Alternatively you can fill out our on-line Feedback form (http://www.cling.gu.se/~damien/causebook/comment_twinkle.html).

9. Links

Links to resources which are, or could be, playing a vital role in the implementation of this Scheme :

Acknowledgements

  • The Hon. Mr. Justice Anthony Hedderman our mentor on this project.
  • David J. Pearson of G.J Moloney & Co. Solicitors, who has been the solicitor for this project since its inception.
  • Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher MEP for first raising the question in the European Parliament of behalf of this Scheme and for his continued persistence on behalf of all E.U. citizens.
  • Jens-Peter Bonde MEP and his assistant David Munis Zepernick who linked this site to his homepage and for his inspiring quotation thereon from A. Sauvy:-

'Un homme qui n'est pas informé est un sujet: un homme informé est un citoyen'

  • Jane O'Brien for her constant assistance.
  • John Feely who advised on the 'Word Perfect' layout.
  • Tim Kelly, Information Officer, European Commission Office, Dublin for always answering our questions.
  • Brian Crowley M.E.P., for now backing this project.
  • Jim Monahan, Journalist, The Examiner Newspaper, for his article on this project.
  • Our Colleagues in the Law Library, in particular, from the Senior Bar: Paddy McEntee; John Gordon; Andreas OCaoimh; Iarfhliath O'Neill; James O'Reilly; Liam McKechnie; John Rogers; Harry Whelehan; Eoghan Fitzsimmons; Dermot Gleeson; Michael O'Kennedy; Michael McDowell; Frank Clarke; John MacMenamin and from the Junior Bar: Donagh McDonagh; Geraldine Smith; Sora O'Doherty; Alex Schuster.
    The Law Library Staff Team, including Albert, Teddy and Vivion.
  • Dominic for our globes.
  • Cyberia Cafe for hosting the original pages.
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