Joseph Weiler, No Longer in the Dock!
The Tribunal de Grand Instance de Paris has issued its judgment in the unconscionable criminal-libel suit brought by Karine Calvo-Goller against NYU’s Joseph Weiler. Weiler, I am happy to report, prevailed on both of the key issues: lack of jurisdiction and whether the lawsuit had so little merit that Calvo-Goller’s decision to file it was abuse of process. In terms of academic freedom, what the court said about the latter issue is particularly important:
“….As regards the choice made by the Complainant to invoke French criminal proceedings, though [Karine Calvo-Goller] holds dual French and Israeli nationality, she resides and works in Israel, the book which is the subject of proceedings was written in English, as was the Book Review; [it was] published on an American website, linked to an American university at which Joseph Weiler works; [the Complainant] explained to the Court that she chose to use the French rather than the American or Israeli systems for financial reasons –the cost of proceedings would have been more expensive for her- as well as for reasons of expediency, being of the view that only French law offered her a chance of success;
… Karine Calvo-Goller thus acknowledges having engaged in what one can call “forum shopping”, that is to say a worldwide search, for the legal system which seems the most favorable to the person initiating legal proceedings, and which places her opponent, as much for legal reasons as for practical reasons — geographical or cultural remoteness — in the least favorable situation….[T]he artificial choice in this case, of the French legal system, coupled with the choice of pursuing a criminal procedure by means of a complaint to an Investigating Judge resulting in both opprobrium and significant costs to the accused, characterizes the abuse of these proceedings;
… Karine Calvo-Goller failed to comprehend [respect] the scope of French Press law stating that the Review which was made the subject of the proceedings could be held to be defamatory…. [I]n effect, the Review of her book does not contain words damaging her honor or her reputation, and only expresses, what is more, in moderate terms, a scientific opinion on [her book] without ever exceeding the limits of free criticism to which all authors of intellectual works expose themselves;
… The bad faith of the Complainant –a lawyer, moreover one familiar with French law given her indication that she pursued her law studies in France- is therefore undeniably established;
….It is therefore with just cause, that Joseph Weiler believes that the [Complainant] has abused her right to bring legal proceedings, on the one hand by initiating an action for defamation in relation to words that do not go beyond the limits of academic criticism, an essential element of academic freedom and freedom of expression and, on the other hand, by artificially bringing proceedings through the French criminal justice system.”
A resounding victory. I want to offer my congratulations to Professor Weiler — although all academics won today.