Twenty-Five Years of International Litigation - Part 5 Chapter 31 -The Practice of International Litigation - 2nd Edition
Lawrence W. Newman has been a partner in the New York office of Baker & McKenzie since 1971, when, together with the late Professor Henry deVries, he founded the litigation department in that office. He is the author/editor of 4 works on international litigation/arbitration.
Michael Burrows, Formerly, Of Counsel, Baker & McKenzie, New York.
After twenty-five years of writing about and practicing in the fields of international litigation and arbitration, there are changes in these areas that are worth commenting on. We focus here primarily on changes in international arbitration.
In 1982, a good deal of our activities concerned claims of American companies before the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in The Hague, which was hearing claims against Iran that arose out of the Iranian revolution. These cases taught us, and many other American lawyers, a good deal about international arbitration as practiced in Europe.
The Hague Tribunal consisted of nine arbitrators (or “judges,” as many of them chose to be called later on) sitting in three chambers. In keeping with international arbitration practice, the Tribunal was divided equally into American-appointed arbitrators, those appointed by Iran and three arbitrators agreed on by Iran and the United States. Two of the original three neutral, or, more euphemistically, “European,” arbitrators in the initial group were Scandinavian and the other French.
The cultural shock for us was that cases were expected to be presented in a markedly different way from the way they would have been presented in, say, a United States district court. Documentary evidence was to be presented in written “memorials,” as was testimony of knowledgeable witnesses. But “witnesses” were different from the way we thought of them: a witness in the Tribunal’s view was an independent person, but not a part of the claimant’s company hierarchy. Such high-ranking persons were neither finally adjured by the Tribunal to tell the truth nor questioned while seated in a special witness chair. Instead, they were obliged, in hearings, to give their testimony in response to questions sitting next to their lawyers, in an awkward side-by-side interrogation that had more in common with a tête-a-tête. Moreover, the Tribunal imposed strict time limits on the hearings, including an equal division between the claimants and respondents – notwithstanding the fact that the claimants had the burden of proving their cases. Instead of the two or three weeks or more that these cases – for breaches of contract and expropriation – would have consumed in a trial court in the United States, the Tribunal cases were to be heard, we learned, in one, to at most four, days.