Businesses who wish to litigate their disputes have rarely had so many “commercial” courts around the world to choose from. The idea is not new – in the UK, for example, the Commercial Court in London was established in 1895 and, in France, the Paris Commercial Court can trace its roots back to 1792. What has changed in recent years, however, has been a step up in the offering across the world with the common promotion of commercial courts and their associated jurisdictions as dispute resolution “hubs” offering state-of-the-art facilities, tailored procedures and a specialised judiciary. To give some examples, the Singapore International Commercial Court was launched in 2015, the “Business and Property Courts” umbrella was created in the UK in 2017, and a new Netherlands Commercial Court was established in 2019.
Although inferring “competition” from this trend is natural, the factors underpinning it are consistent; a a desire to achieve speed and efficiency, judges who understand the relevant area of commerce, and a sound decision-making process. These form a consistent thread and are ultimately good for business as they have the needs of court users at their heart.
Supporting those themes, are efforts at the international level, such as the work of the EU, the Hague Conference of Private International Law (both in developing legal instruments for civil and commercial co-operation) and the Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts (in promoting softer co-operation in the form of education and the sharing of expertise); which may, in this sphere, help emulate what has been achieved for arbitration by the New York Convention and arbitral institutions.
But how should users choose from this offering? Are all “commercial courts” alike and what is it that they offer?
In this review we take a closer look at some of the centres around the world by reference to a number of key questions. In particular:
What are the main international commercial courts in a particular jurisdiction?
A brief introduction to those that exist.
What is the subject matter of the disputes that they primarily deal with?
Certain commercial courts have particular specialities, we examine the more noteworthy ones.
Is their procedure especially tailored to deal with commercial disputes?
Commercial courts are often at the forefront of procedural innovation, including showing flexibility during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Are their facilities optimised for commercial disputes?
Likewise, commercial courts have often been the beneficiary of dedicated hearing facilities; we look at what is on offer.
What is the general profile of the judges who sit in the international commercial courts?
A brief look at the backgrounds of the judges who sit in commercial courts.
How does a case come before them?
A short examination of the basis upon which users can expect their disputes to be heard before a commercial court.
Who deals with appeals from them?
For disappointed parties, access to a robust appeals process may be important. These are outlined here.
What, if any, are the principal, multilateral, international instruments to which a host state is party and which may assist proceedings in these courts?
Aside from a court’s own qualities, recognition of its processes and judgments by other states can also help promote a successful outcome for litigants. We take a look at the main multilateral instruments which apply to the commercial courts in question.
In this review we state the position as at May 2022.
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