Has British Libel Law Fallen Foul Of US Protections Again?

By Times Online | by Mark Stephens
Monday, December 4th, 2006 @ 8:02PM

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The book, unobjectionable by American libel standards, was not published in the UK but 23 copies were sold to British buyers over the internet and one chapter was made available online. On that basis, the sheikh climbed aboard his private jet and filed suit in London in June last year. Dr Ehrenfeld decided it was not worth the time or expense to mount a defence against a billionaire of something entirely legitimate in her home country, especially over so few sales. As is her right, she declined to appear in London. Mr Mahfouz, one of a long line of libel tourists to sue in the British courts over minuscule circulations, applied for default judgment and was awarded ᆪ10,000, as was each of his sons, who had also sued over how they were presented in the book. Mr Justice Eady, who heard the case, ordered that the Mahfouzs’ costs should be paid and – unusually – made an order declaring certain statements in the book false. Dr Ehrenfeld’s lawyers brought proceedings in New York to declare Mr Justice Eady’s order of no effect on the grounds, as has long been recognised, that English law falls foul of American constitutional protections on 15 separate points. In the course of argument, Judge Leval suggested the part of Mr Justice Eady’s order requiring Dr Ehrenfeld to keep her books out of Britain might be enough to allow her case to go forward, and asked rhetorically: “If a foreign litigant seeks and obtains from a foreign court an order that requires action in the US, why should that not be sufficient to give jurisdiction to US courts?” That seems unanswerable to me.


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