French Article 14 Jurisdiction, Viewed from the United States
27 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2004
French courts have broadly read their Civil Code's oddly written Article 14 as authorizing territorial jurisdiction over virtually any action brought by a plaintiff of French nationality. This study traces the history of this provision from its genesis two hundred years ago to its extension under the current Brussels Regulation.
Nevertheless, for a number of reasons, French plaintiffs do not use Article 14 all that much, other than in status suits such as matrimonial matters or in situations where the defendant has assets in France (or now, under the Brussels regime, in Europe). The actual use of Article 14 ends up being not all that different from what other countries have accomplished in other ways, such as the United States by its nonpersonal attachment jurisdiction or Germany by its property-based personal jurisdiction. Each country's exorbitant jurisdiction constitutes a way to allow its own people to sue at home when they can enforce the judgment at home, which is usually so much easier than suing abroad.
So one could argue that, being essentially similar to all the other countries' exorbitances, Article 14 mainly sounds bad, because it is more nationalistic in expressing who can invoke it and because it does not utilize the subterfuge of expressly linking to property in France or to any other defendant contact with France. But in fact Article 14 has more extensive effects than its limited invocation suggests, lurking in the background of numerous filed cases and threatened cases. The future poses the risk of ever more extensive pernicious effects. International conventions should therefore aim at eliminating Article 14, like any other exorbitant jurisdiction.
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