The Court was established on the basis of Articles 220-245 EC.
The Court of Justice has its origins in Art. 220 EC and consists of fifteen judges and nine Advocates-General who are appointed for six years in mutual agreement by the governments of the Member States. They are chosen from among persons who can offer every guarantee of independence (Art. 223 EC). Every three years, some of the judges and Advocates-General are replaced, but they are eligible for reappointment. From their number, the judges select the president of the Court for a three-year term. This person is also eligible for reappointment.
The Treaty of Nice stipulates that, in an enlarged Union, the Court of Justice must be composed of as many judges as the number of Member States. Instead of convening in plenary sessions each time, they can convene in boards or in an enlarged board of thirteen judges, in accordance with the rules on this point as they have been laid down in the statutes of the Court of Justice. This statute may also stipulate when the judges will convene in a plenary session.
The Advocate-General has a supportive function at the Court. It is his task, in public, to draw well-founded conclusions in full impartiality and independence in cases where such is required in accordance with the statute of the Court.
Besides the Court of Justice, there has been a Court of First Instance since 1989. This Court consists of fifteen judges and has no permanent Advocates-General. In some cases, one of the judges can be deployed as Advocate-General. These judges are also appointed for a term of six years by common accord of the governments of the Member States. As with the Court of Justice, they select a president from their number.
The term ´Court of Justice´ may, therefore, refer to two matters: firstly, to the institution, that is, the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance together; secondly, to the Court as a tribunal administering justice.
The seat of the Court of Justice is in Luxembourg.
The Court of Justice is presently overburdened, and the number of cases is only expected to go up with the admission of new members to the Union. The Court´s overburdening leads to extremely lengthy terms for delivering judgement. This situation is unacceptable with a view to the operation of the Community and it is unacceptable to those seeking justice. In order to alleviate the workload of the Court, an attempt has been made in the Treaty of Nice to establish a better distribution of the powers of the Court and the Court of First Instance and arrange for the possibility of establishing specialized boards for specific areas, such as disputes involving European officials. The Treaty also allows for further transfer of direct appeals and certain kinds of preliminary questions.
The Court of Justice has a monitoring function with respect to decision-making. By means of an appeal, the Commission or one of the Member States can turn to the Court to determine whether a Member State has failed to comply with Treaty obligations incumbent upon the Member State (Articles 226 and 227 EC). The Member State is obliged to take the measures imposed upon it by the Court. In order to force a Member State to take such measures, the Court may impose a penalty payment or a fine (Art. 228).
A Member State, institution, or civilian may also request the Court to annul a decision (Art. 230). If the Court annuls a decision, it may yet decide that certain legal consequences will be maintained (Art. 231).
In addition, the Court may pass judgement on the interpretation and validity of Community law (Art. 234) by means of preliminary rulings. The aim of this procedure is to prevent national judges from interpreting Community law in different ways. In some cases, a judge must or can turn to the Court with a question. The judgement of the Court is binding.
The procedure for the Court consists of a written and an oral phase. The appeal starts with a petition that is filed with the Registry. An Advocate-General and a Judge-Rapporteur are then appointed. The petition is published and made known to the opposite party to the proceedings. Within a month, this party can file a defence. The petitioner has a right to lodge a reply, and the defendant has a right to lodge a rejoinder. After the written phase, it is decided on the basis of the rapporteur´s findings to have the case dealt with by one of the chambers or by the Court in plenary session. This is followed by the public oral part, in which the case is argued before the judges and the Advocate-General.
The Advocate-General subsequently delivers his opinion on the case in open court. He analyses the relevant facts and the legal aspects of the case and proposes his solution to the problem.
Then the judges deliberate and a decision is reached by a majority of votes. The judgement is announced in open court
The site of the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance mainly contains the more recent case law. The older case law and the official texts of judgements rendered by the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance is available via EURLEX, and in paper form, Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance. This publication contains the official texts of judgements rendered by the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance. Beside the text of the judgement, the opinion of the Advocate-General is published and a summary is given on the basis of keywords.
The case law on staff cases of the Court of First Instance from 1994 onward is available in a loose-leaf publication. The judgements are published in the language of the case. Texts of staff case judgements rendered by the Court on appeal are published in the Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance.
It usually takes more than a year for judgements to appear in their definitive and official form. To accommodate interested parties, the Court of Justice publishes preliminary versions of judgements and of opinions of the Advocate-General, the so-called Stencils. The preliminary versions of judgements appear on paper in all the official languages, but the opinions only in the language of the Advocate-General and in the language of the case. The preliminary judgements and opinions are also available in the Internet in all languages at Recent case law.
The Proceedings offers a list of the judicial activities of the Courts of Justice and of First Instance. It contains summaries of judgements and of opinions of the Advocates-General, an overview of cases pending before the Court, and the most important events. There is also a paper edition.
The web page Case Law offers numerical access to the case law. The register is ordered by case number of cases lodged before the Court of Justice since 1953 and before the Court of First Instance of the European Communities since 1989. Via hyperlinks, parts of the texts of judgements can be browsed in the CELEX database. There also consists a paper version of the list.
The Annual Report is an overview of the activities of the Court. It also contains statistical information. The Annual Report has appeared in print since 1968. Summaries of recent reports (only in English and French) are available via Internet site of the Court.