Monthly Law News Summary – February 2018

Welcome to The Lawyer Portal’s Monthly Law News Summary. This month’s post will cover the news stories from 1st February 2018 to the 28th February 2018.

This month, UKIP faces financial disaster with a £200,000 legal bill; scores of jobs lost by Newcastle employees of Carillion are saved by Magic Circle giant Clifford Chance; a British group wins the right to take Brexit case to European Court; Louboutin faces setback in EU legal battle over red soles; and a Spanish court forces an unwilling father to share custody of his children.

Want more regular legal news? Our new and improved Instagram – @thelawyerportal – has just introduced its 60 Second Legal News Round-Up every Monday, where we reveal the biggest legal headlines from the previous seven days!

The High Court has ruled that UKIP must fund part of a £670,000 legal bill for costs of three Labour MPs who won a libel case against UKIP MEP Jane Collins.

The ruling came just days after UKIP’s Treasurer John Bickley said it has been “living hand-to-mouth” since 2015 and its finances are under “great pressure.” In a leaked memo Mr Bickley told local party chiefs that three leadership contests in 18 months had “significantly impacted our income.”

The bill is the latest step in a three-year saga involving Ms Collins and the three MPs for Rotherham, Kevin Barron, John Healey and Sarah Champion. The High Court ruled Ms Collins libelled the trio in 2014 by wrongly saying they knew abut child sex abuse in the town and “chose not to intervene.”

In the last couple of days, a judge said UKIP must be jointly liable with Ms Collins to pay legal costs that the MPs ran up between 20th March and 24th June 2015. The judgement also found UKIP made a calculated decision to ensure the case was not settled before the 2015 general election. Ms Collins had refused to withdraw her claims or apologise and repeatedly tried to delay the case, the High Court heard.

Mr. Healey said his aim had never been to ruin UKIP financially, “Because she and UKIP have strung this out, the costs have risen, so its right UKIP will pay a substantial share of the legal costs.”

A spokesman from UKIP refused to comment on claims the party’s money is running out saying: “We are not commenting on rumours.”

Some 60 jobs have been saved at the Newcastle base of Carillion Advice Services as Clifford Chance snaps up the firm in the wake of the Carillion collapse. Originally developed as part of Carillion’s in-house legal team, the firm started supporting third parties and other legal teams around six years ago.

Clifford Chance UK managing partner Michael Bates said: “Our priority is always to ensure that we are best placed to provide the optimum service to our clients. By working with the CAS team, we will enhance our ability to provide extremely cost-effective, efficient and high-quality service on a range of low complexity legal tasks as an integral part of our overall client offer.”

He goes on to say that, “the addition of the team in Newcastle, with their well-recognised expertise in unbundling, developing processes and applying the latest in legal tech, will enable us to provide clients with another option from within the firm.”

>> Find out more about Clifford Chance – and the Magic Circle law firms – through our ultimate guide!

British citizens seeking to retain their EU citizenship rights after Brexit have won a landmark legal ruling that will result in their case being heard in the European Court of Justice. Five British nationals settled in the Netherlands had asked the court in Amsterdam to refer their case to the ECJ last month on the grounds that their existing rights could not be removed because of the UK referendum to leave the EU. The judge ruled on Wednesday that the case could be referred.

A spokesman for Brexpats – Hear Our Voice, which led the challenge said: “This case has always been about seeking clarification, not only for the 46,000 Brits living in the Netherlands, but also for all the 1.2 million Brits living in other EU countries. The lobby group, the five Britons and the Commercial Anglo Dutch Society were the named claimants in the case that was funded by Jolyon Maugham, the QC behind a series of Brexit legal challenges in Britain.

The judge will issue two draft questions to be put before the ECJ within the next two weeks. The first question asks the ECJ panel of judges to determine whether Brexit means British nationals will automatically lose their EU citizenship and all the rights that flow from that, including freedom of movement. If the answer is no, then the ECJ judges are asked to determine what, if any, conditions or limitations should apply to the maintenance of those rights once Britain leaves the EEY.

The applicants’ lawyer, Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm, had argued that the Lisbon Treaty gave British nationals the right to retain EU citizenship after Brexit because it stated, in article 20, that “citizenship of the union shall be additional to and not replace national citizenship.” Maugham said that the outcome of the case would be “profoundly important” for British people living in the EU.

>> Not sure how to approach the topic of Brexit in your interviews? We have the blog post for you here: How to Discuss Brexit at a Law Interview!

Louboutin faces setback in EU legal battle over red soles as senior judges discuss whether his trademark in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg is legitimate.

French fashion designer Christian Louboutin has been producing his famous scarlet-soled shoes for more than a quarter of a century. Since he started producing the red-bottomed shoes, he has fought to protect his signature style.

The latest development in that battle comes from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) as judges discuss the legitimacy of his trademark in the Benelux countries. The case goes back to 2012 when the Dutch show retailer Van Haren brought out its Fifth Avenue by Halle Berry line which red soled high heels. Christian Louboutin argued that it infringed his brand’s Benelux trademark. The District Court in The Hague agreed and granted a temporary injunction against Van Haren.

The Dutch Company appealed against this decision and in 2014 the case was referred to the ECJ for clarification. Van Haren argues the trademark is invalid because the EU law does not allow trademarks that consist only of “the shape that gives substantial value to the goods.” The trademark of Louboutin covers “the colour red (Pantone 18 1663TP) applied to the sole of a shoe.” The issue at hand is whether or not “shape” includes colour. If it does, the mark can be ruled invalid.

The European Court of Justices’ Advocate General Maciej Szpunar gave his view that the Trade Mark is invalid. However, the court has still to come to a definitive decision, which may or may not follow Szpunar’s opinion.  

It is worth noting that Christian Louboutin holds a valid trademark for red-soled shoes in the US (provided the rest of the shoe is not also red). Nevertheless, that has not been enough to protect him in the European Courts. This variation between jurisdictions means that colour trademarking is likely to remain a grey area.

A court in Spain has ordered the father of two teenagers to accept shared custody against his wishes – the first ruling of its kind in the country. The Andalucia court ruled that both parents would take weekly shifts looking after the 15-year old boy with a disability and his 17-year old sibling. It comes after the mother said that changes in her personal circumstances meant she could no longer cope alone.

According to the ruling by the judge in Cordoba, the change in the childcare regime “provides an opportunity to develop the best conciliation strategies for the benefit of the minors.” Maria Dolores Azaustre, vice president of AEAFA, the Spanish family lawyers’ association, called it a “pioneering sentence.” She said: “It’s the first time a father has been forced to engage in shared custody despite his oppression.”

The mother of the two teenagers was given complete custody of the children according to a 2013 divorce settlement. Later, the arrangements were changed with the agreement of both parents to include some weekend visits to the father’s house, but this broke down due to tension between one of the children and the father. When the father refused to resume the previous regime, the mother asked the court to revise the children’s custody due to her state of exhaustion, exacerbated by the death of her father and the subsequent loss of her family support network.

It follows another ruling in recent weeks by the courts, in which a Madrid father was obliged to accept custody of his eight-year-old autistic son on alternate weekends despite never having looked after the boy in the three years since the couple separated.


Published: 28/02/18     Author: Alicia Gibson

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