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European Court of Justice – Definition

European Court of Justice Definition

European court of justice (ECJ), a body of the European Union (EU), is tasked to interpret EU law uniformly across all member countries and settle legal disputes between its member governments and other EU bodies. Moreover, in certain conditions, it allows individuals, association or institution to move against an EU establishment in the event that they feel it has infringed their rights.

A Little More on What is the European Court of Justice

The ECJ was formed in 1952 and is headquartered in Luxembourg. It is staffed by judges from every EU nation for a total of 47 judges (this will expand to 56 in 2019). There are 11 advocates general.

The ECJ is divided into two courts:

  • Court of Justice – This court manages demands for fundamental decisions from national courts.
  • General Court – This court addresses the cases related to annulment or invalidation brought by people, organizations and, at times, EU governments. Practically, this implies this court addresses competition law, state law, exchange, horticulture, exchange marks.

Each judge and advocate general is selected for a 6-year term. In each Court, the judges select a President who serves renewable term of 3 years.

Courts from EU member nations can apply EU law. If the court is in uncertain about the application or legitimacy of an EU law, it can approach the Court for Illumination. If an EU country’s law or court decisions violates fundamental rights or go against the EU treaties, the Court can be requested to repeal it by an EU government, the Council of the EU, the European Commission or (sometimes) the European Parliament.

References for European Court of Justice

Academic Research on the European Court of Justice

  • ●      Who are the “masters of the treaty”?: European governments and the European Court of Justice, Alter, K. J. (1998). International organization52(1), 121-147. This paper explores how the Court escaped member state control. To achieve this, this article develops a general hypothesis of the autonomy of the ECJ, focusing on how differing time horizons of political and judicial actors, support for the Court within the national judiciaries, and decision-making rules at the supranational level limit the member states’ ability to control the Court.
  • ●      The European Court of Justice, national governments, and legal integration in the European Union, Garrett, G., Kelemen, R. D., & Schulz, H. (1998). International Organization52(1), 149-176. In this paper, the authors develop a game theoretic model of the conditions under which the European Court of Justice can be expected to take “adverse judgments” against European Union member governments and when the governments are likely to abide by these decisions. The model generates three hypotheses. These hypotheses are tested against three broad lines of case law central to ECJ jurisprudence. The authors wishes to show that although influenced by legal precedent, the ECJ also takes into account the anticipated reactions of member governments.
  • ●      The European Court of Justice: taking rights seriously?, Coppel, J., & O’neill, A. (1992). Legal Studies12(2), 227-245.
  • ●      Revisiting the European court of justice, Mattli, W., & Slaughter, A. M. (1998). International organization52(1), 177-209. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is widely recognized not only as an important actor in the process of European integration but also as a strategic actor in its own right. This paper analyses the debate between neofunctionalists and intergovernmentalists on the expansion of the Court in the last four years.
  • ●      The legitimacy of transnational legal institutions: Compliance, support, and the European Court of Justice, Gibson, J. L., & Caldeira, G. A. (1995). American Journal of Political Science, 459-489. In this paper, the authors make use of competing propositions from the literature on institutional legitimacy and compliance to trace the sources of acceptance of, or the propensity to comply with, judicial decisions. Findings show that people are less likely to accept a court decision that they don’t find favourable. This research demonstrates that legitimacy is important for acceptance and probably for compliance; and that the European Court of Justice must tend to what may be an emerging shortfall of legitimacy for the high bench of the European Union.
  • ●      Legal interpretation at the European Court of Justice, Fennelly, N. (1996). Fordham Int’l LJ20, 656. This Essay is an attempt to enunciate the essential elements of the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) approach to legal interpretation, by the only Irish Advocate General to be appointed to that Court to date and to draw attention to some of its most notable practical applications.
  • ●      The European Court of Justice, state noncompliance, and the politics of override, Sweet, A. S., & Brunell, T. (2012). American Political Science Review106(1), 204-213. This paper analyses an article previously published by the APSR, Carrubba, Gabel, and Hankla claim that the decision making of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has been constrained—systematically—by the threat of override on the part of member state governments, acting collectively, and by the threat of noncompliance on the part of any single state.
  • ●      Integration and integrity in the legal reasoning of the European Court of Justice, Bengoetxea, J., MacCormick, N., & Moral Soriano, L. (2001).
  • ●      The European Court of Justice as an agent of Europeanization? Restoring compliance with EU law, Panke, D. (2007). Journal of European Public Policy14(6), 847-866. This article complements existing approaches in studying instances in which states do not meet European demands immediately (non-compliance). It analyses the role of the European Court of Justice in facilitating changes even against states’ eminent resistance to top-down Europeanization. An empirical analysis shows that judgments and threats of sanctions are important for restoring compliance but are not always effective. This article theoretically accounts for this finding. The hypotheses are illustrated with two environmental and social policy case studies in Germany.
  • ●      WTO law in the European Court of Justice, Kuijper, P. J., & Bronckers, M. (2005). Common Market L. Rev.42, 1313.

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