‘Snoozing’ judge causes sleepless nights for Nakheel

Property developer calls for retrial after Dubai World Tribunal member caught catching forty winks during legal proceedings for $15.5m case

Nakheel, Dubai’s state owned property developer, has demanded the retrial of a $15.5m case in front of the Dubai World Tribunal after it accused one of the tribunal members of falling asleep during legal proceedings.

Michael Hwang, the chief justice of the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts, was named by Clifford Chance, the international law firm acting for Nakheel, as the slumbering judge, a report by The National said.

As a result, David Thomas QC, barrister for Clifford Chance, told the tribunal that anything short of a retrial of the case would “damage public confidence in the judicial system of Dubai”, and that any result would be ‘unfair’ to all parties involved.

The incident took place on May 9th, during a dispute between the developer and Shokat Mohammad Dalal, an investor in The World project.

Sir Anthony Evans, the chairman of the tribunal and a former chief justice at the DIFC Courts, acknowledged that Hwang had fallen asleep and that there had been a ‘breach of duty’.

Despite this, he dismissed Nakheel’s claims on the grounds that the evidence submitted during the six minute period that Hwang was asleep was not relevant to the case.

“The question that the tribunal has to ask itself is [would] a fair minded person consider that the only appropriate response to the complaint made is to order a retrial?,” he was quoted as saying by the Abu Dhabi based newspaper.

A DIFC official, who asked not to be named, told The Big Project that Michael Hwang was sitting on the tribunal independent of his role of chief justice of the DIFC Courts.

He stressed that Hwang’s role on the tribunal was no reflection on his duties as chief justice.

Sir Anthony added that the tribunal had dismissed Nakheel’s complaint because a full transcript of the hearing was available to Hwang, including a video.

Furthermore, he said that Clifford Chance had been aware of the incident the morning after it had taken place, but had waited to make an application for retrial 25 days after the incident, when the law firm was instructed by the Nakheel board to do so.

According to The National, Sir Anthony called the complaint ‘mischievous’ and ‘without merit whatsoever’. He ordered Nakheel to pay the defendant’s costs for the hearing.

“Common sense is that the tribunal should consider all the circumstances before deciding what order is appropriate to be made,” he said. “No significant evidence was given during the period in question.”

The Dubai World Tribunal was set up in 2009 to oversee the restructuring of Dubai World and its subsidiary companies and their debts.

The tribunal consists of three jurists, Sir Anthony Evans, Sir John Chadwick and Judge Hwang.


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