Announcement of Nygh Prize Winner: Michael Douglas, ‘Does Choice of Law Matter?’

The Australian Branch of the International Law Association is pleased to announce the winner of the 2021 Nygh Essay Prize in Private International Law. This prize is named in honour of the late Dr Peter Nygh AM, a leading Australian scholar of private international law and former President of the Branch. Dr Nygh was a judge of the Family Court of Australia, a member of Australia’s first delegation to, and played an integral role in, The Hague Conference on Private International Law and was awarded the Centenary Medal by the Australian Government as well as the Order of Australia, partly in recognition of his outstanding and longstanding contribution to private international law, and in particular his representation of Australia at The Hague Conference.

The winner of the 2021 Nygh Prize is Michael Douglas for his paper ‘Does Choice of Law Matter?’ Mr Douglas is completing his PhD in private international law at Sydney Law School. He works as an academic at UWA Law School and in a litigation firm in Perth. The Australian Branch of the International Law Association expresses its congratulations to Mr Douglas on his successful entry.

The abstract for the paper is included below:

We ought to rethink how we understand the conflict of laws in Australia with respect to forum statutes. Views which may be orthodox in conflict of laws scholarship no longer align to the proper treatment of forum statutes in cross-border civil litigation in Australian courts. Statutory interpretation is of primary importance in determining issues in cross-border litigation before Australian courts involving forum statutes. As most cases involve statutes, statutory interpretation is thus of primary importance to most cross-border litigation. This approach is statutist, in that, like the statutism of centuries ago, it favours interpretation as the method to determine issues of territorial scope of law. It also follows in the tradition of Currie’s governmental interest analysis in that it favours the interests of forum institutions in resolution of questions in cases with a foreign element. Choice of law, in the traditional sense of its traditional techniques, still matters. But statutory interpretation matters more in the actual life of the law. This ought to be embraced by scholars and teachers. Perhaps then the realm of the conflict of laws will be less dismal, less mysterious and more comprehensible to those who understand the law better than many of those in the ivory tower: actual lawyers.

Mr Douglas