In my post on the Porsche/Volkswagen saga, I pointed to the practice of publishing cases in sanitized versions only. Names of parties, witnesses, even cities are anonymized – the press report about Porsche and Ferdinand Piech, about claims against Standard & Poor’s etc., but you will not find their names anywhere in the published judgments – a time-honoured practice which I find increasingly absurd.
The Federal Tax Court (Bundesfinanzhof) has added an example to my growing collection: Ruling on the tax treatment of signing fees for professional footballers, the carefully anonymized judgment gave away some hints: The claimant was a football club based in the federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern who were playing first division football. That’s the equivalent of saying that the claimant is an NFL franchise in Wisconsin…. It took a random sample of colleagues that I quizzed about this 45 seconds on average to figure out which club it was. (OK, the sample was 100% male, but still…)
You may wonder why I bother posting about this, if you can second-guess the parties’ identity anyway. Well, you can’t always, and on top, sometimes it is simply difficult to figure out what the relevant facts were.
Take the Standard & Poor’s example: the Frankfurt Court of Appeals discusses whether the link of the defendant to city “O1” or to “O2” is strong enough to justify it being sued there. Hard to follow, if you have no clue what “O1” and “O2” are. Or take the freezing order case, on which I had posted ealier: One would think that it had some influence on the court’s finding whether defendant’s assets were based in Austria or Afghanistan – but all we are told is that there was no justification for a freezing order, as the defendant had assets in “country 2” and “country 3”.
I have no idea how this practice can be changed. There is a rumor that the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) once referred to “Chancellor Dr. Konrad A.” in one of its published cases. It that is true, then it will be an uphill battle… For the time being, any suggestions and further examples are welcome.