Action Alert from the Center for Justice & Democracy
on the Proposed Convention on Jurisdiction and Foreign Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters


For Immediate Release
November 29, 2000

Contact: Emily Gottlieb
Deputy Director
Center for Justice & Democracy



The United States government is currently involved in a shocking and potentially dangerous treaty negotiation that would place major litigation decisions by consumers and workers around the world in the hands of the businesses they are suing. Very few people are aware that this is happening because business interests are in complete control of the process. There is absolutely no consumer representation in these treaty negotiations. Moreover, the U.S. government is assuming consumers are happy with this situation because they have not heard anything to the contrary from consumer groups.

Specifically, the U.S. government has appointed a pro-business delegation to determine whether the United States accepts or rejects a Hague treaty (called the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction and Foreign Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters) that could determine where and how American consumers and workers can sue and be sued. See, Some areas of concern are as follows:

  • Where Consumers Can Sue. Right now, the U.S. government has effectively blocked language in the treaty that would allow consumers to bring an action in the courts where they live.

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution. Businesses want the right to opt out of a country’s consumer protection laws if they provide ADR procedures like arbitration -- procedures that prevent cases from going to court.

  • Labor Issues. The U.S. government has opposed a provision that would give employees in private employment contracts a right to sue and be sued in the country where they live. Other provisions could affect U.S. labor unions. For example, if a U.S. labor union urges a global consumer boycott, it is unclear whether the union could be sued abroad in tort and have the resulting judgment enforced against it in the United States.

    The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), has requested comments on or before December 1, 2000. Please take a moment to do the following:

  • E-Mail or fax the United States Patent and Trademark Office on or before December 1, 2000. Tell the USPTO that consumers must be part of the process and ask for an extension of the December 1, 2000 comment deadline. Send your comments to the attention of Elizabeth Shaw by fax, (703) 305-7575, or by e-mail, on or before December 1, 2000. For more information, contact Jennifer Lucas, Attorney-Advisor, by telephone, (703) 305-9300, by fax, (703) 305-8885, or by e-mail,

  • Write a letter to the US delegates before December 10, 2000. On December 11th and 12th, there will be an intergovernmental meeting on ADR and the Hague Treaty. Manon Ress of the Consumer Project on Technology—lone consumer advocate who will be with the U.S. delegates but is prohibited from being part of any negotiation —wants to circulate letters of concern. These can be submitted to her by fax, (202) 234-5176, by e-mail,, or by regular mail, Manon Ress, Consumer Project on Technology, P.O. Box 19367, Washington, DC 20036. For further information, contact Manon Ress by telephone at (202) 387-8030.

  • Offer your expertise. Businesses have hired experts to brief the U.S. delegation about issues of importance, i.e., how to protect business interests under the treaty. Consumer and employee advocates are needed to counter pro-industry rhetoric that favors elimination of consumer protections. For more information, contact Manon Ress at CPT. MANON ALSO DESPERATELY NEEDS LEGAL ASSISTANCE. IF YOU ARE AN ATTORNEY AND CAN OFFER HELP, PLEASE CONTACT HER.

  • Forward this alert to other consumer organizations and attorneys. Consumer groups have been excluded from treaty negotiations while businesses have been lobbying to protect their interests. Consumer advocates need to be aware of the issues so they can strategize and take action if necessary.

    Thank you.

    For more information about the Hague Treaty on Jurisdiction and Foreign Judgments, see;;;

    Questions, comments and suggestions to Vergil Bushnell

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