Case T-459/07

Hangzhou Duralamp Electronics Co., Ltd

v

Council of the European Union

(Preliminary issues – Withdrawal of a document from the case‑file – Removal of a sentence from the case‑file)

Summary of the Order

Procedure – Treatment of cases before the Court of First Instance – Protection given to parties against misuse of pleadings – Scope

(Rules of Procedure of the Court of First Instance, Arts 64(3)(d), 65(b) and 116(2); Instructions to the Registrar of the Court of First Instance, Art. 5(5))

According to the rules governing the treatment of cases before the Court of First Instance, parties are entitled to protection against the misuse of pleadings. Therefore, the parties to a case, whether the main parties or interveners, have the right to use the pleadings of other parties to which they have been granted access solely for the purpose of defending their own legal position in the context of that case. Each case brought before the Court has its own case‑file containing the documents and pleadings produced by the parties to the case in question and each case‑file is completely separate. It is true that apart from exceptional cases in which disclosure of a document might adversely affect the proper administration of justice, parties to proceedings are free to disclose their own written submissions to parties not involved in those proceedings and that, likewise, a party to proceedings may, subject to the same proviso, consent to a pleading which it presented in the context of those proceedings being used by another party thereto in the context of separate proceedings. However, the same does not apply where the party seeking to use that pleading has not asked for permission to do so from the party which produced it. In any event, should the Court take the view that a pleading presented in the context of another case might be of use in resolving another dispute, it could order its production pursuant to Articles 64(3)(d) or 65(b) of its Rules of Procedure.

(see paras 12-15)







ORDER OF THE COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE (Fourth Chamber)

15 October 2009 (*)

(Preliminary issues – Withdrawal of a document from the case‑file – Removal of a sentence from the case‑file)

In Case T‑459/07,

Hangzhou Duralamp Electronics Co., Ltd, established in Hangzhou (China), represented by M. Gambardella and V. Villante, lawyers,

applicant,

v

Council of the European Union, represented by J.‑P. Hix, acting as Agent, assisted by G. Berrisch and G. Wolf, lawyers,

defendant,

supported by

Commission of the European Communities, represented by H. van Vliet and K. Talabér‑Ritz, acting as Agents,

Osram GmbH, established in Munich (Germany), represented by R. Bierwagen, lawyer,

interveners,

APPLICATION for annulment of Council Regulation (EC) No 1205/2007 of 15 October 2007 imposing anti-dumping duties on imports of integrated electronic compact fluorescent lamps (CFL-i) originating in the People’s Republic of China following an expiry review pursuant to Article 11(2) of Council Regulation (EC) No 384/96 and extending to imports of the same product consigned from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of the Philippines (OJ 2007 L 272, p. 1),

THE COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES (Fourth Chamber),

composed of O. Czúcz, President, I. Labucka and K. O’Higgins (Rapporteur), Judges,

Registrar: E. Coulon,

makes the following

Order

1        By application lodged at the Registry of the Court of First Instance on 17 December 2007, Hangzhou Duralamp Electronics Co., Ltd (‘Hangzhou’ or ‘the applicant’) brought the present action, in which it seeks the annulment of Council Regulation (EC) No 1205/2007 of 15 October 2007 imposing anti-dumping duties on imports of integrated electronic compact fluorescent lamps (CFL-i) originating in the People’s Republic of China following an expiry review pursuant to Article 11(2) of Council Regulation (EC) No 384/96 and extending to imports of the same product consigned from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of the Philippines (OJ 2007 L 272, p. 1; ‘the contested regulation’).

2        By application lodged at the Registry of the Court of First Instance on 21 December 2007, Philips Lighting Poland S.A. and Philips Lighting BV also brought an action against the Council of the European Union for annulment of the contested regulation (Case T‑469/07).

3        By order of the President of the Fourth Chamber of the Court of First Instance of 12 June 2008, Osram GmbH was granted leave to intervene in the present case in support of the form of order sought by the Council. Osram lodged its statement in intervention on 9 September 2008, in respect of which Hangzhou lodged its observations on 24 November 2008 (‘the observations of 24 November 2008’).

4        By order of the President of the Fourth Chamber of the Court of First Instance of 9 October 2008, Hangzhou was granted leave to intervene in Case T‑469/07 in support of the form of order sought by Philips Lighting Poland and Philips Lighting. Pursuant to Article 116(2) of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of First Instance, Hangzhou received a copy of every document served on the parties in that case, including the statement of defence lodged by the Council on 28 March 2008.

5        In the last sentence of paragraph 29 of the observations of 24 November 2008, Hangzhou, examining the question of ‘Community industry’, states:

‘For the sake of discussion on this point the Applicant believes it is more than appropriate to refer to the description of the Community [industry] made in paras 27 to 29 by [the Council] in the [statement of defence] in [Case T‑469/07] (Annex J. 3) which reaches a conclusion different from the one of [Osram].’

6        By letter lodged at the Registry of the Court of First Instance on 15 January 2009, the Council requested that the sentence quoted in the paragraph above and Annex J. 3 to which it referred, that is to say, the statement of defence which the Council had lodged in Case T‑469/07, be removed from the case‑file in the present case. In support of its application, the Council submits that Hangzhou engaged in an abuse of procedure by using, without authorisation, that statement of defence ‘other than for the purpose of court proceedings in [Case T‑469/07]’. The Council points out that the latter case and the present case have not been joined and that it is settled case‑law that parties are entitled to protection against the misuse of pleadings.

7        By letter lodged at the Registry of the Court of First Instance on 11 February 2009, Hangzhou presented its observations on that request. It took the view, essentially, that that request was unfounded and that Hangzhou could not be criticised for having committed an abuse of procedure. With regard to that last point, it stated, in particular, that it had been given leave to intervene in Case T‑469/07, a case which has the same subject-matter as the present case, and that, as a result, it had legitimate access to the pleadings lodged in that case, including the statement of defence in question. Hangzhou also claims that, if the Council’s request were to be granted, it would not be possible for it to indicate to the Court that, in a parallel pending case in which Hangzhou is an intervener, the Council is arguing ‘exactly the opposite concerning [a] very important issue of law and fact’.

8        It is necessary to examine, on the basis of Article 114(1) of the Rules of Procedure, whether the application to have the last sentence of paragraph 29 of the observations of 24 November 2008 and Annex J. 3 to those observations removed from the case‑file is justified. Under that provision, where a party so requests, the Court may give a decision on a preliminary plea without going to the substance of the case. In accordance with Article 114(3), the remainder of the proceedings are to be oral, unless the Court decides otherwise. In the present case, the Court is of the view that it has sufficient information from the documents before it and that it is not necessary to open the oral procedure.

9        First, with regard to the Council’s application for removal from the file in the present case of Annex J. 3 to the observations of 24 November 2008, it is appropriate to accede to that application.

10      Annex J. 3 is the statement of defence which was lodged by the Council in Case T‑469/07 and was sent to Hangzhou, in the context of that case, pursuant to Article 116(2) of the Rules of Procedure. Hangzhou thus intends to use, for the purpose of its action in the present case, a pleading to which it obtained access in its capacity as intervener in a separate case.

11      That method of proceeding is impermissible.

12      In that regard, first, it should be pointed out that each case brought before the Court has its own case‑file containing, inter alia, the documents and pleadings produced by the parties to the case in question and that each case‑file is completely separate. This last point is illustrated by Article 5(5) of the Instructions to the Registrar of the Court of First Instance of 5 July 2007 (OJ 2007 L 232, p. 1), which states that ‘[a] document which is produced in a case and placed on the file of that case may not be taken into account for the purpose of preparing another case for hearing’.

13      Second, it is settled case‑law that, according to the rules governing the treatment of cases before the Court of First Instance, parties are entitled to protection against the misuse of pleadings and that, therefore, the parties to a case, whether the main parties or interveners, have the right to use the pleadings of other parties to which they have been granted access solely for the purpose of defending their own legal position in the context of that case (see, to that effect, Case T‑174/95 Svenska Journalistförbundet v Council [1998] ECR II‑2289, paragraphs 135 and 137; orders of the President of the Fifth Chamber of the Court in Case T‑11/99 R Van Parys and Others v Commission [1999] ECR II‑1355, paragraph 22; of the President of the First Chamber of the Court of 5 August 2003 in Case T‑168/01 Glaxo Wellcome v Commission, not published in the ECR, paragraph 28; and of the President of the Fourth Chamber of the Court in Case T‑383/03 Hynix Semiconductor v Council [2005] ECR II‑621, paragraph 47).

14      It is, admittedly, settled case‑law that, apart from exceptional cases in which disclosure of a document might adversely affect the proper administration of justice, parties to proceedings are free to disclose their own written submissions to parties not involved in those proceedings (order in Case C‑376/98 Germany v Parliament and Council [2000] ECR I‑2247, paragraph 10). Likewise, a party to proceedings may, subject to the same proviso, consent to a pleading which it presented in the context of those proceedings being used by another party thereto in the context of separate proceedings. In the present case, however, it is not disputed that Hangzhou did not even ask the Council for permission to use, in the present case, the statement of defence which the Council had lodged in Case T‑469/07.

15      Lastly, it is appropriate to point out that, should it take the view that the statement of defence in question might be of use in resolving the present dispute, the Court could, in any event, order its production pursuant to Articles 64(3)(d) or 65(b) of its Rules of Procedure.

16      Second, with regard to the application to have the final sentence of paragraph 29 of the observations of 24 November 2008 removed from the case-file, that application must, by contrast, be refused in view of the very general nature of the statement which that sentence contains.

17      It is appropriate to reserve the costs.

On those grounds,

THE COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE (Fourth Chamber)

hereby orders:

1.      The document produced by Hangzhou Duralamp Electronics Co., Ltd as Annex J. 3 to its observations on the statement in intervention lodged by Osram GmbH shall be removed from the case‑file for this case.

2.      The application is dismissed as to the remainder.

3.      The costs are reserved.

Luxembourg, 15 October 2009.

E. Coulon

 

      O. Czúcz

Registrar

 

      President


* Language of the case: English.