The Supreme Court case seemed settled with the opinion of February 25, 2011, but actually wasn't. Last Friday the Supreme Court issued a short additional opinion, fixing two slip-ups in his first opinion. Here's the key part.
De Hoge Raad heeft in deze zaak op 25 februari 2011 een beschikking uitgesproken. Deze beschikking bevat een kennelijke vergissing in de aanduiding van de partij die op de conclusie heeft gereageerd, die zich voor eenvoudig herstel leent. De vijfde zin van rov. 2 moet als volgt worden gelezen:
"De advocaat van Marigot c.s. heeft bij brief van 22 december 2010 op die conclusie gereageerd."
Daarnaast is in de beschikking onder 3.12 abusievelijk een passage weggevallen. Ook deze fout leent zich voor eenvoudig herstel. De onder 3.12 vermelde tekst wordt vervangen door:
"De onderdelen kunnen niet tot cassatie leiden. Een betoog van de zojuist weergegeven strekking is bij de Ondernemingskamer niet gevoerd. De onderdelen noemen ook geen vindplaatsen waar een voldoende uitgewerkt betoog van deze strekking naar voren is gebracht, en zij houden niet de klacht in dat de ondernemingskamer in dit opzicht stellingen over het hoofd heeft gezien of op onbegrijpelijke wijze heeft misverstaan. Het betoog kan niet voor het eerst in cassatie aan de orde komen, aangezien het mede een onderzoek van feitelijke aard vergt, waarvoor in cassatie geen plaats is."
Bij brief van 11 april 2011 heeft de Hoge Raad de advocaten van partijen op de hoogte gebracht van deze verschrijvingen en hen in de gelegenheid gesteld zich over de verbetering daarvan uit te laten. De advocaten van Marigot c.s. en IA Groep hebben van die gelegenheid gebruik gemaakt.
In Ondernemingsrecht 2011-5, no. 40 I analyzed the first opinion more in-depth. As I wrote on p. 204 and 207, the wording of the opinion already suggested - to me at least - that the Supreme Court had not taken hours to draft the ruling. I guess my haunch was correct: in addition not only the wrong lawyer was mentioned in the opinion (rov. 2), even a whole sentence was deleted by mistake from the court's substantive reasoning (rov. 3.12).
Now that things have been fixed, one question keeps lingering in the back of my mind; well, it was actually put there by my colleague Arnoud Pijls (HT!) post-publication, who was kind enough to bring this question to my attention. Perhaps an EHRM watcher - which I'm not - reading this blog can share some useful insights on point.
To recap: the Supreme Court ducked the whole 'violation of section 1 First Protocol' complaint solely based on rules of Dutch civil procedure law:
- the claimant did not make this argument before the Enterprise Chamber;
- the complaint does not mention anywhere where such an argument can be found in the briefs;
- the complaint does not state that the Enterprise Chamber - inexplicably - missed such an argument; and
- the argument is too fact-intensive for the Supreme Court to handle (remember, the Supreme Court does not review de novo).
We therefore don't know whether the share dilution facilitated by the Enterprise Chamber's section 2:349a(2) DCC immediate measures as taken and motivated in its December 31, 2009 ruling can be reconciled or not with section 1 FP, as both the Enterprise Chamber and the Supreme Court remain 100% silent on this issue. Even if Marigot and Willemse indeed failed to invoke section 1 FP before the Enterprise Chamber, they did invoke section 1 FP before the Supreme Court; there's no question about that.
Here comes the lingering part: can this 'form over substance' course taken by the Supreme Court (too little too late, so I don't have to address it), that is solely based on rules of Dutch procedural law, be squared with the effective application of the EHRM treaty as mandated by that treaty to which the Netherlands is a party? In other words: can the Supreme Court refuse to address a substantive ' violation of section 1 FP' claim altogether, simply because that claim was not presented properly to the Enterprise Chamber, although this is just a Dutch rule of procedural law?
The Supreme Court in this case does not seem to have been bothered by this question, that turns on the relationship between treaty law and national law. Honestly, neither was I when I wrote my comment. Perhaps the answer is yes, if EHRM case law from the EHRM court in Strasbourg should be read to require that a party who wants to file a 'violation of the EHRM treaty' claim with the EHRM court must have filed the same complaint with the appropriate domestic courts - that's plural - at least in substance first (i.e., not just with the highest domestic court), in order to be able to ultimately bring such a claim before the EHRM court.
See for example EHRM 15 november 1996, req. no. 64756/01 (Sadik t. Griekenland) §30: '(…) it recognised that Article 26 (art. 26) must be applied with some degree of flexibility and without excessive formalism and that it does not require merely that applications should be made to the appropriate domestic courts and that use should be made of remedies designed to challenge decisions already given. It normally requires also that the complaints intended to be made subsequently at Strasbourg should have been made to those same courts, at least in substance and in compliance with the formal requirements and time-limits laid down in domestic law (…).' [emphasis by me]
Also notice the reference to 'in compliance with the formal requirements and time-limits laid down in domestic law.'
In that case: if a party would not be entitled to have his EHRM related claim reviewed by the EHRM court, because that claim was not previously brought - in a proper way - before all appropriate Dutch courts (here: including the Enterprise Chamber), then why should it be entitled to have his EHRM related claim reviewed by the Dutch Supreme Court, if the claim was not properly brought before the Enterprise Chamber? In that case, wouldn't the Dutch procedural rule applied by the Supreme Court be in sync with EHRM case law on point?
The comment function is switched on!