UPDATE: The full text of the Judgment is now available below; some minor technical issues were fixed.
UPDATE 2: An unofficial translation of the Judgment into English is now available here.
On March 3, 2011, the Tribunal de Grand Instance de Paris issued its decision in the Criminal Libel Case brought against me based on a complaint by Dr Karine Calvo-Goller. It would appear that the Court ruled in our favor on all issues.
As will be recalled, the case was brought in my capacity as Editor in Chief of the European Journal of International Law and its associated Book Review website www.GlobalLawBooks.org. It was brought as a result of my refusal to remove a Review, written by the distinguished German academic Thomas Weigend, critical of a book written by Dr Karin Calvo-Goller. Dr Calvo-Goller claimed the Review was libelous and demanded its suppression. I offered her a right-of-reply which was declined. Since I did not consider the Review libelous its removal in my view would have seriously compromised academic freedom and the intellectual integrity of EJIL and book reviewing generally. For full details see here.
The Trial took place in Paris on January 20th, 2011 – see here.
Represented by Maitre Thierry Marembert and Cécile Labarbe of the Paris Law Firm Kiejman & Marembert, we made two principal arguments in defense: First, that the Court should not exercise jurisdiction — the case being too remote from France; and second, that it should rule that in the circumstances of the case, initiating a criminal complaint amounted to an abuse of process by the Complainant.
In its Judgment, the Court upheld both claims. On the jurisdictional issue, a highly technical part of the Judgment, it seems to have ruled that although available on the internet, the Complainant did not prove to its satisfaction that the Review was actually accessed in France during the period within which a criminal complaint had to be filed. The full Judgment in French and a translation will be posted on the EJIL blog – www.EJILtalk.org in the next few days. [UPDATE: The full text of the Judgment in French is now available here.]
In ruling on the issue of abuse of process by the Complainant, the Court was able to address the merits of the case. The following are excerpts from the Judgment in unofficial translation.
“….As regards the choice made by the Complainant to invoke French criminal proceedings, though [Karine Calvo-Goller] holds dual French and Israeli nationality, she resides and works in Israel, the book which is the subject of proceedings was written in English, as was the Book Review; [it was] published on an American website, linked to an American university at which Joseph Weiler works; [the Complainant] explained to the Court that she chose to use the French rather than the American or Israeli systems for financial reasons –the cost of proceedings would have been more expensive for her- as well as for reasons of expediency, being of the view that only French law offered her a chance of success;
… Karine Calvo-Goller thus acknowledges having engaged in what one can call “forum shopping”, that is to say a worldwide search, for the legal system which seems the most favorable to the person initiating legal proceedings, and which places her opponent, as much for legal reasons as for practical reasons — geographical or cultural remoteness — in the least favorable situation….[T]he artificial choice in this case, of the French legal system, coupled with the choice of pursuing a criminal procedure by means of a complaint to an Investigating Judge resulting in both opprobrium and significant costs to the accused, characterizes the abuse of these proceedings;
… Karine Calvo-Goller failed to comprehend [respect] the scope of French Press law stating that the Review which was made the subject of the proceedings could be held to be defamatory…. [I]n effect, the Review of her book does not contain words damaging her honor or her reputation, and only expresses, what is more, in moderate terms, a scientific opinion on [her book] without ever exceeding the limits of free criticism to which all authors of intellectual works expose themselves;
… The bad faith of the Complainant –a lawyer, moreover one familiar with French law given her indication that she pursued her law studies in France- is therefore undeniably established;
….It is therefore with just cause, that Joseph Weiler believes that the [Complainant] has abused her right to bring legal proceedings, on the one hand by initiating an action for defamation in relation to words that do not go beyond the limits of academic criticism, an essential element of academic freedom and freedom of expression and, on the other hand, by artificially bringing proceedings through the French criminal justice system.”
Considering the resulting harm suffered by the accused, he will be justly compensated by judgment against the Complainant requiring her to pay to him the sum of €8,000.” [about US$ 11,000]
I hope this brings this sad saga to an end though it should be noted that the Complainant has a right of appeal.
Be that as it may, I would like to thank my legal team, the Dean and faculty of NYU School of Law for moral and material support, and the many letters of encouragement by friends and strangers from around the world. Naturally, any damages will be donated to a charitable cause. As for the Judgment, I will follow the wisdom of the Sages, “Whoever Adds, Detracts.”