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European Union Law: Institutions and Sources

This guide provides an overview of the structure and lawmaking activities of the EU Institutions as well as resources for EU research.

  Official Reporters

Official Reports:

 Reports of the Cases Before the Court of Justice and Court of First Instance  (E.C.R. 1973-present)

 Unofficial Reports:

 Common Market Law Reports (C.M.L.R. 1962-present)

 Common Market Reports  (Common Mkt. Rep. (CCH) 1967-1988)

 European Community Cases (CEC (CCH) 1989-present)

Role of the Judge-Rapporteur

This official manages the progress of the case through the Court.  Once all pleadings have been received, the Judge-Rapporteur writes a report that summarizes the facts and the arguments on both sides.  This is called the Report of the Hearing.  That report is made public in the language of case.  The language of the case is decided by the applicant and is usually the language spoken by the Member State or the individual.

Role of Advocate General

This person also follows the progression of the case carefully.  At the public hearing where both sides make their cases and respond to questions from the Court, the Advocate General actually sits with the Court but off to one side.  Weeks later in open court, the Advocate General delivers his prepared Opinion to the Court.  The facts and legal issues are analyzed and a resolution is proposed to the Court.  The parties to the case may not comment on what is said.

 Based on the Judge-Rapporteur's report, the Advocate's opinion, the Court makes a judgment.  Both the judgment and the opinion are published in the official reporter of the Court, the Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice and Court of First Instance (ECR) in the twenty languages of the Union.  For this reason alone, publication of the official reports is slow. 

Court of Justice and General Court

Union law is directly applicable in the courts of all EU Member States.  The primary function of the Courts is to ensure that EU laws are followed in the interpretation and application of the treaties and other legal instruments.  The General Court (formerly the Court of First Instance) was created in 1989 to relieve a growing burden on the Court of Justice.  The jurisdiction of the Court of Justice focuses mainly on the judicial review of the acts of EU institutions and the interpretation of the treaties. 

Court of Justice of the European Union Website(CURIA)

Forms of Action

The various forms of action before the Court of Justice include:

       Treaty infringement:  Typically this action is instituted by the Commission against a Member State for failure to fulfill an obligation under the treaties or a regulation or directive.

       Annulment:  A Member State, the Council, Commission or the Parliament may ask the Court to annul all or part of an item of Union legislation.  Individuals may also bring this type of action if the legislation directly affects them.

       Failure to act:  This type of action is brought against a Union institution for inaction when it is alleged that they are legally bound to act.

       Appeals:  The Court will take appeals on legal issues only from the General Court.

       Preliminary rulings:  As the highest authority on Union law, the Court of Justice will hear referrals from National Courts on interpretations of Union law.  Once the Court has ruled on the matter, the National Court is bound to apply it to the case they are hearing.

 The General Court has jurisdiction over the following actions:

       Direct actions brought by individuals against acts of the institutions, bodies, offices or agencies of the European Union.

      Actions brough by member states against the Commission.

      Actions seeking compensation for damages.

      Actions relating to Community trademarks.        

When studying a judgment of the Court it is best to start with the opinion.  The opinion most resembles an opinion from an American appellate court and will outline the facts and legal arguments.  If the Court agrees with the Advocate General's resolution, the opinion can be used as authority.  It the Court does not agree, its use as authority is obviously limited.

Citation Form

See Rule 21.5.2 and Table 3.3 of the Bluebook for citation rules. 

 The Bluebook states, "Cite cases before the Court of Justice and the General Court to E.C.R., if therein.  If not, cite to C.M.L.R. or to Common Mkt Rep. (CCH) or CEC (CCH) if therein, in that order of preference.  Always provide a parallel citation to C.M.L.R., if possible; otherwise, provide parallel citation to Common Mkt. Rep. (CCH) or CEC (CCH)."  Table 3.3, p. 426. 

 Note that the docket number of the case precedes the name of the case. 

 A docket number that starts with “C” is case before the Court of Justice.

 A docket number that starts with “T” before the General Court (Formerly Court of First Instance).

  Citation Form

 Sample citations:

 Case 174/82, Officier van Justitie v. Sandoz BV, [1983] E.C.R. 2445, [1984] 3 C.M.L.R. 43.

 Case C-208/90, Emmot  v. Minister for Soc. Welfare, [1991] E.C.R. I-4269, [1991] 2 CEC (CCH) 395.

 Case T-198/98, Micro Leader Bus. v. Comm'n, [1999] E.C.R. II-3989.