European Court of Justice
The Court of Justice is composed of 25 judges (one from each Member State) and 8 Advocates General. The Court is headed by a President who is elected by the judges from among their number. Advocates General assist the Court in presenting opinions on a case assigned to them which, although not binding on the Court, are often followed.
The main categories of proceedings over which the Court of Justice has jurisdiction are:
- References for preliminary rulings
National courts of Member States may, in the context of domestic litigation, refer a legal question to the Court of Justice, for example on the interpretation or clarification of a Community law, or on the validity of such a law. The Court’s response is binding on the national court which made the referral and also on other national courts before which the same question is raised.
- Actions for failure to fulfil obligations
The Court may determine, at the instigation of the Commission or another Member State, whether a Member State has fulfilled its obligations under Community law. Such an action must be preceded by a preliminary procedure conducted by the Commission in which the relevant Member State has the opportunity to submit its observations on the matter. If the Court finds that an obligation has not been fulfilled, the relevant Member State must bring this failure to an end without delay. If it does not, the Commission may bring a further action against the Member State, in which the Court may impose a financial penalty.
- Actions for annulment and for failure to act
The Treaty establishing the European Community provides that actions can be taken to the Court to review the legality of an act of the European Parliament, Council or Commission (Articles 230 and 231) or to challenge the failure of one of the institutions, in infringement of the Treaty, to act (Article 232).
The Court of Justice has exclusive jurisdiction over such actions which are brought by a Member State against the European Parliament or Council or brought by one Community institution against another.
- Appeals and review
The Court of Justice may consider appeals on a point of law against decisions of the Court of First Instance. It may also review decisions by the Court of First Instance in appeals brought to it against decisions of the Civil Service Tribunal.
The Court of First Instance is composed of at least one judge from each Member State, and is headed by a President appointed by the judges from amongst their number.
The proceedings in which the Court of First Instance has jurisdiction include:
- actions brought by natural or legal persons against acts of Community institutions (addressed to them or directly concerning them as individuals) or against a failure to act on the part of those institutions,
- actions brought by the Member States against the Commission;
- actions brought by the Member States against the Council relating to acts adopted in the field of State aid, ‘dumping’ and acts by which it exercises implementing powers;
- actions seeking compensation for damage caused by the Community institutions or their staff;
- actions based on contracts made by the Communities which expressly give jurisdiction to the Court of First Instance;
- actions relating to Community trade marks.
The Civil Service Tribunal deals with disputes between the European institutions and other EU bodies and their employees.