Late extra: Balfour’s Practicks in the European Court of Justice

Sixteenth-century Scottish legal writing is cited in the decision of the European Court of Justice on Case 37/00 Weber v Universal Ogden Services Ltd [2002] E.C.R. I-2013; [2002] QB 1189.

The case is about the Brussels Convention of 27 September 1968 on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters.  Advocate General Francis Jacobs wrote, at paragraph 4 of his opinion:

“The principles of the Convention are not new. Already in the 16th century, Sir James Balfour of Pittendreich wrote in his Practicks:

"Na man may be Judge in ony cause, bot gif defendar be within his jurisdiction, be resson of his dwelling place within the same, or in respect of contract of obligation made thair; or be resson of tresspas committit within the boundis thairof, or in respect of the thing that is askit and clamit, quhilk is and lyis within his jurisdictioun; because the persewar sould follow the defendar's jurisdictioun, and persew him befoir his awin competent Judge" ("Of jugeis", chapter 15, p 284 in the printed editions).”

Our thanks to Professor Gerry Maher for drawing this remarkable reference to our belated attention.  Sir James Balfour ranks amongst the dodgier characters of Scottish legal history, as described in Sheriff Peter McNeill’s notable introduction to the Stair Society’s two-volume reprint of the Practicks; but it is evident that he was a pretty good lawyer, and his definition of the basic principles of jurisdiction does indeed stand the test of time extremely well.  Now it, and Balfour himself, are guaranteed places amongst European as well as Scottish authorities.

 

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