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Precedent and Judicial Lawmaking in Supreme Courts: The Court of Justice Compared to the US Supreme Court and the French Cour de Cassation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 October 2017


Why is it so difficult to qualify the Court of Justice’s decisions as ‘sources of law?’ Does the Court of Justice only ‘interpret’ law, or does it ‘make’ it? To what extent should its pronouncements be taken into account by others? This chapter shows how a particular theoretical approach to precedent and judicial lawmaking shapes the answers to the queries mentioned above. It examines a set of interrelated questions concerning precedent and judicial lawmaking by the US Supreme Court and the French Cour de cassation and then applies these findings to the Court of Justice. The questions are: first, in what sense is it said that these courts make law; secondly, who is bound by their pronouncements; and, thirdly, how does this binding force actually work? It is suggested that while the US and French systems have found ways in which to reconcile judicial lawmaking with the basic premises of their constitutional and political systems, especially by allowing other actors to respond to judicial lawmaking (in the particular sense of the word ‘lawmaking’ used in these two systems), the EU system is still waiting for a satisfactory answer.

Research Article
Copyright © Centre for European Legal Studies, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge 2009

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1 Case 26/62 NV Algemene Transport- en Expeditie Onderneming van Gend & Loos v Netherlands Inland Revenue Administration [1963] ECR 1 and Case 6/64 Flaminio Costa v E.N.E.L. [1964] ECR 585.

2 The use of ‘normatively relevant’ as distinct from ‘binding’ is to be preferred as explained in due course.

3 Case C-224/01 Gerhard Köbler v Republik Österreich [2003] ECR I-10239, para 56. This is of course a circular argument, since it depends on whether Member States’ authorities accept Köbler as binding on them such that they would award damages on the basis of it. But here I deal with the ECJ’s perspective, not its acceptance on the Member State level.

4 Schermers, HG and Waelbroeck, DF, Judicial Protection in the European Union, 6th edn (The Hague, Kluwer Law International, 2001) 133 Google Scholar.

5 See the Opinion of Advocate General Warner in Case 112/76 Renato Manzoni v Fonds national de retraite des ouvriers mineurs [1977] ECR 1647, 1661–3 for an exceptional use of these terms—which do not, however, appear in the text of the judgment.

6 Opinion in Joined Cases C-202/04 Stefano Macrino and Claudia Capoparte v Roberto Meloni and C-94/04 Federico Cipolla v Rosaria Fazari, née Portolese [2006] ECR I-11421, para 28.

7 Joined Cases C-267/91 and C-268/91 Keck Criminal proceedings against Bernard Keck and Daniel Mithouard [1993] ECR I-6097, para 14.

8 Case C-109/01 Secretary of State for the Home Department v Hacene Akrich [2003] ECR I-9607.

9 Case C-127/08 Blaise Baheten Metock and Others v Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, judgment of 25 July 2008, nyr, para 58.

10 A well-known example is Case C-352/98 P Laboratoires pharmaceutiques Bergaderm SA and Jean-Jacques Goupil v Commission of the European Communities [2000] ECR I-5291, where the Court changed the standards applicable for Community liability without admitting it. See Arnull, A, The European Union and its Court of Justice, 2nd edn (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006) 622 Google Scholar, especially 628–9, for a critique.

11 Reich, N, ‘The “November Revolution” of the European Court of Justice. Keck, Meng and Audi Revisited’ (1994) 31 Common Market Law Review 459 Google Scholar.

12 Due, O, ‘Dassonville Revisited or No Cause for Alarm?’ in Campbell, AIL and Voyatzi, M (eds), Legal Reasoning and Judicial Interpretation of European Law: Essays in Honour of Lord Mackenzie-Stuart (London, Trenton, 1998), 28 Google Scholar.

13 Tesauro, G, ‘The Community’s Internal Market in the Light of the Recent Case-law of the Court of Justice’ (1995) 15 Yearbook of European Law 1, 6CrossRefGoogle Scholar. I am grateful to S Weatherill for drawing my attention to these two articles.

14 Arnull, above n 10, 631, which reflects the view of Advocate General Roemer expressed in his Opinion in Case 9/61 Kingdom of the Netherlands v High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community [1962] ECR 213, 242.

15 This is only an assumption. To my knowledge, there is no systematic study of the Member State legal systems’ approaches to ECJ’s precedents and legal reasoning based on them.

16 See Peczenik, A, ‘The Binding Force of Precedent’ in MacCormick, N and Summers, RS (eds), Interpreting Precedents. A Comparative Study (Aldershot, Dartmouth Press, 1997) 478 Google Scholar, who notes that ‘formal bindingness may be regarded as a non-graded concept, like “preg nant”‘, and then explains that it is too narrow a view.

17 See n 16 above. For a comprehensive account of the book see Bell, J, ‘Comparing Precedent’ (1997) 82 Cornell Law Review 1243 Google Scholar.

18 Namely, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

19 N MacCormick and RS Summers, ‘Introduction’ in Interpreting Precedents, above n 16, 2. See also ‘Further General Reflections and Conclusions’ in Interpreting Precedents, above n 16, 546–7.

20 See Adams, M, ‘The Rhetoric of Precedent and Comparative Legal Research’ (1999) 62 Modern Law Review 464, 465–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21 Ibid, 465. See also Adams, M, ‘Precedent versus Gravitational Force of Court Decisions in Belgium: Between Theory, Law and Facts’ in Hondius, E (ed), Precedent and the Law (Brussels, Bruylant, 2007) 151 Google Scholar.

22 Cappelletti, M, ‘The Doctrine of Stare Decisis and the Civil Law: A Fundamental Difference—or no Difference at All?’ in Bernstein, H, Drobnig, U and Kötz, H (eds), Festschrift für Konrad Zweigert zum 70. Geburstag (Tübingen, Mohr, 1981) 392 Google Scholar.

23 Ibid, 383–8.

24 Ibid, 389–92. Cappelletti gives the example of Italy, where a diffuse (decentralised) model was adopted for a short period of time (1948–56) and did not work.

25 On the other hand, Peczenik’s contribution to the volume, above n 16, makes an elaborated effort to distinguish between various types of ‘bindingness,’ reflecting treatment of precedent in different legal systems and N MacCormick and RS Summers, ‘Further General Reflections and Conclusions’ in Interpreting Precedents (above n 16) 531, 536–42 carefully analyses ‘significant remaining differences’.

26 As will become clear, using the French term ‘la jurisprudence’ is not only fancy, but also fulfils an important function: to make clear its distinctiveness from the common law understanding of precedent and also, to distinguish it from the English use of the term. I therefore put the term in italics. For different understandings of the word ‘jurisprudence’, which has its origin in the Latin word iurisprudentia, see Grzegorczyk, C, ‘Jurisprudence: phénomène judiciaire, science ou méthode?’ (1985) 30 Archives de Philosophie du droit 35 Google Scholar.

27 See, eg, Galabert, J-M, ‘The Influence of the Conseil d’État Outside France’ (2000) 49 International Comparative Law Quarterly 700, 707–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

28 Postema, GJ, Bentham and the Common Law Tradition (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1986) 3 Google Scholar.

29 On different understandings of the European Union constitution(alism) see particularly Avbelj, M, ‘Questioning EU Constitutionalisms’ (2008) 9 German Law Journal 1 Google Scholar, with further references.

30 De S-O-L’E Lasser, M, Judicial Deliberations. A Comparative Analysis of Judicial Transparency and Legitimacy (New York, Oxford University Press, 2004) 5 Google Scholar.

31 Apart from Lasser, above n 30, see particularly Dawson, JP, The Oracles of the Law (Ann Arbor, MN, The University of Michigan Law School, 1968)Google Scholar and Merryman, JH, ‘The French Deviation’ (1996) 44 American Journal of Comparative Law 109 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

32 See Ewald, W, ‘The Jurisprudential Approach to Comparative Law: A Field Guide to “Rats”’ (1998) 46 Am J Comp L 701 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

33 Alexander, L, ‘Constrained by Precedent’ (1989) 63 Southern California Law Review 1, 3Google Scholar.

34 Roe v Wade 410 US 113 (1973), an iconic precedent granting a constitutional right to abortion.

35 See Casey v Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania 505 US 833 (1992).

36 Schauer, F, ‘Do Cases make Bad Law?’ (2006) 73 University of Chicago Law Review 883, 886Google Scholar.

37 See the text accompanying n 28 above.

38 Marbury v Madison 1 Cranch (5 US) 137, 177 (1803). See Pettys, TE, ‘The Myth of the Written Constitution’ (2009) 84 Notre Dame Law Review 91 Google Scholar.

39 See, eg, Sunstein, CR, A Constitution of Many Minds (Princeton NJ/Oxford, Princeton University Press, 2009) 19–32Google Scholar.

40 Cooper v Aaron 358 US 1, 18 (1958).

41 Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, Speech at Elmira, New York (3 May 1907), quoted in Alexander, L and Schauer, F, ‘On Extrajudicial Constitutional Interpretation’ (1997) 110 Harvard Law Review 1359, 1387CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

42 The debate is framed in terms of ‘judicial supremacy’. For a useful introduction, see Alexander, L and Schauer, F, ‘Defending Judicial Supremacy: A Reply’ (2000) 17 Constitutional Comment 455 Google Scholar, with further references.

43 The example of the presidential veto refers to President Jackson, who in 1832, according to Barry Friedman, ‘[i]n the message vetoing the extension of the Bank of the United States’ franchise … specifically reserved the authority of the Executive to interpret the Constitution in a manner contrary to the judiciary’, in reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in McCulloch v Maryland, 17 US (4 Wheat) 316 (1819). See Friedman, B, ‘The History of the Countermajoritarian Difficulty, Part One: The Road to Judicial Supremacy’ (1998) 73 NYU Law Review 333, 401–2Google Scholar.

44 See, eg, Kramer, L, ‘The Supreme Court 2000 Term Foreword: We the Court’ (2001) 115 Harv L Rev 4, 5CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

45 For the purposes of this chapter, I do not distinguish between the so-called ‘Article III federal courts’ (created by the Congress directly on the basis of Article III, § 1 of the US Constitution), and ‘Article I (or also legislative) tribunals’ (which have their basis in legislation adopted by the Congress in accordance with Article I and not the Constitution itself). See Pfander, JE, ‘Article I Tribunals, Article III Courts, and the Judicial Power of the United States’ (2004) 118 Harv L Rev 643 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

46 Friedman, B, ‘Under the Law of Federal Jurisdiction: Allocating Cases Between Federal and State Courts’ (2004) 104 Columbia Law Review 1211, 1216–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar, with further references particularly in n 22.

47 For the years 1998 to 2002 it was approximately 17% of cases. See Pfander, JE, ‘Köbler v Austria: Expositional Supremacy and Member State Liability’ (2006) 27 European Business Law Review 275, 297Google Scholar.

48 I stress direct control, since there are ways in which Member States courts’ compliance can be enforced (through Member States’ liability and also infringement actions), although they are very limited. See Komárek, J, ‘Federal elements in the Community judicial system: Building coherence in the Community legal order’ (2005) 42 CML Rev 9 Google Scholar.

49 I leave aside here an important issue of habeas corpus review, a special form of ‘a post-conviction remedy for prisoners claiming that error of federal law—almost always of federal constitutional law—infected the judicial proceedings [before state courts] that resulted in their detention’. See JnrFallon, RH et al, Hart and Wechsler’s The Federal Courts and the Federal System, 5th edn (New York, Foundation Press, 2003), 1285 Google Scholar.

50 See, eg, Schwarzer, WW, Weiss, NE and Hirsch, A, ‘Judicial Federalism in Action: Coordination of Litigation in State and Federal Courts’ (1992) 78 Virginia Law Review 1689, 1746–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

51 See generally Caminker, EH, ‘Why Must Inferior Courts Obey Superior Court Precedents?’ (1994) 46 Stanford Law Review 817 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

52 I leave the interesting question of mutual relationships between lower federal courts or state courts unexplored in this chapter.

53 See the text accompanying nn 34 and 35 above.

54 Casey v Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania, above n 35, 854–5, internal references omitted.

55 See particularly Paulsen, MS, ‘Abrogating Stare Decisis by Statute: May Congress Remove the Precedential Effect of Roe and Casey?’ (2000) 109 Yale Law Journal 1535 CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed (against horizontal stare decisis as a constitutional requirement); and Fallon, RH, ‘Stare Decisis and the Constitution: An Essay on Constitutional Methodology’, (2001) 76 NYU L Rev 570 Google Scholar (respond ing to Paulsen and arguing the opposite).

56 Lawson, G, ‘The Constitutional Case Against Precedent’ (1994) 17 Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 23 Google Scholar.

57 Austin, J in Austin, S (ed), 2 Lectures on Jurisprudence (London, John Murray, 1863) 327 Google Scholar.

58 Ibid.

59 Ibid.

60 Austin, above n 57, 327–8.

61 There are various definitions of dicta and justifications for them. In the English context, see Duxbury, N, The Nature and Authority of Precedent (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008) 67–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and for the US, particularly, Abramowicz, M and Stearns, M, ‘Defining Dicta’ (2005) 57 Stan L Rev 953 Google Scholar and Dorf, MC, ‘Dicta and Article III’ (1994) 142 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 1997 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. This problem is not limited to the Common law jurisdictions—see G Marshall, ‘What is Binding in a Precedent’ in Interpreting Precedents, above n 16, 504–6.

62 Valley Forge Christian Coll v Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc 454 US 464, 472 (1982), quoted by Schauer, above n 36, in fn 48, where he gives further examples. Schauer has questioned this fundamental premise of common law adjudication with reference to a statement made by Justice Holmes in Northern Securities Co v United States, 193 US 197, 400 (1904) (dissenting), quoted by Schauer, above n 36, 884, that ‘[g]reat cases like hard cases make bad law’, and highlighting the distortive effects a concrete situation can have on a deciding court.

63 See n 38 above.

64 The ‘case or controversy requirement’.

65 See Fallon et al, above n 49, 67–73, with further references.

66 Marbury v Madison, above n 38, 170.

67 See also a quote from Marshall’s opinion, text to n 38 above.

68 Fallon et al, above n 49, 68.

69 See Friedman, B, ‘The Politics of Judicial Review’ (2005) 84 Texas Law Review 257, 302–8Google Scholar.

70 Reynolds, GH and Denning, BP, ‘Lower Court Readings of Lopez, or What if the Supreme Court Held a Constitutional Revolution and Nobody Came?’ (2000) Wisconsin Law Review 369 Google Scholar. For a very interesting discussion of state courts’ freedom not to follow the Supreme Court’s precedent see Bloom, FM, ‘State Courts Unbound’ (2008) 93 Cornell L Rev 501 Google Scholar.

71 Tiersma, PM, ‘The Textualization of Precedent’ (2007) 82 Notre Dame L Rev 1187 Google Scholar.

72 Leval, PN, ‘Judging Under the Constitution: Dicta About Dicta’ (2006) 81 NYU L Rev 1249 Google Scholar.

73 See Pfander, above n 47, 291–5. For a critique of unnecessarily wide judgments that deal with questions unrelated to the disputes in which they are rendered see Healy, T, ‘The Rise of Unnecessary Constitutional Rulings’ (2005) 83 North Carolina Law Review 847 Google Scholar.

74 Wilson v Layne 526 US 603, 609 (1999).

75 Lasser, Judicial Deliberations, above n 30, 168–9.

76 See, eg, Merryman, above n 31, 109–10, and Merryman, JH, The Civil Law Tradition: An Introduction to the Legal Systems of Western Europe and Latin America, 2nd edn (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1985) 16 Google Scholar, or Dawson, above n 31, 373.

77 Lasser, Judicial Deliberations, above n 30, 169.

78 Ibid.

79 Ibid, 171, quoting (in Lasser’s translation) J-É-M Portalis, Discours préliminaire du premier projet de Code civil (1801). The complete Discours together with a number of essays dealing with different topics concerning the Civil Code was published as Terré, F (ed), Le discours et le code: Portalis deux siècles après le Code Napoléon (Paris, LexisNexis Litec, 2004)Google Scholar.

80 Judicial Deliberations, above n 30, 169.

81 Lasser, , ‘Comparative Readings of Roscoe Pound’s Jurisprudence’ (2002) 50 Am J Comp L 719 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

82 See n 30 above. Apart from the article cited in n 81 above see also Lasser, , ‘Judicial (Self-) Portraits: Judicial Discourse in the French Legal System’ (1995) 104 Yale LJ 1325 CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Lasser, , ‘Do Judges Deploy Policy?’ (2001) 22 Cardozo Law Review 863 Google Scholar.

83 On avocat général and conseiller rapporteur see Judicial Deliberations, above n 30, 47–9.

84 For a more exhaustive evaluation of Lasser’s book see my review article ‘Questioning Judicial Deliberations’ forthcoming in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies.

85 Carbonnier, J, Droit civil. Introduction, 21st edn (Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1992) (1st edn in 1955) 263–82Google Scholar. In Carbonnier’s systemisation, jurisprudence falls among ‘authorities’, together with the doctrine, while enacted law (la loi) together with custom form the sources of law (sources du droit civil). All, however, are discussed under one heading: ‘objective law’ (le droit objectif ).

86 Malaurie, P and Morvan, P, Droit civil: introduction générale, 2nd edn (Paris, Defrénois, 2005) 265 Google Scholar, with further references. See also Ghestin, J, Goubeaux, G and Fabre-Magnan, M, Traité de droit civil. Introduction générale sous la direction de Jacques Ghestin, 4th edn (Paris, Librairie générale de droit et de jurisprudence, 1994) 192204 Google Scholar; and Jestaz, P, Les sources du droit (Paris, Dalloz, 2005)Google Scholar.

87 Judicial Deliberations, above n 30, 173. It is true that Lasser mentions in a footnote, n 15 on the same page, that ‘this position—as all theoretical positions tend to be—is by no means universally adopted’ and admits that ‘[c]ontemporary mainstream French doctrine therefore does yield academic authors who argue that [jurisprudence ] is a true source of law.’ Lasser mentions ‘the renowned—and hardly subversive’ professorTerré, François who in his Introduction générale au droit, 4th edn (Paris, Dalloz, 1998) 235–51Google Scholar, according to Lasser, ‘appears to classify [jurisprudence] as a veritable source of law (along with legislative and administrative enactments and custom), albeit in terms so tactfully measured as to border on the equivocating’ (emphasis added). I must say I do not see anything ‘tactful’ in Terré’s exposition. Then Lasser adds another example, perhaps as a curiosity—Sadok Belaid, professor at the University of Tunis (Lasser explicitly mentions Belaid’s institutional affiliation, while he does not do so in case of other French professors—perhaps to stress Belaid’s outsider status?), who in Essai sur le pouvoir créateur et normatif du juge (Paris, Librairie générale de droit et de jurisprudence, 1974) ‘argued explicitly … that [jurisprudence ] constitutes an important part of French positive law, in the strictest sense of the term’.

88 Jestaz, above n 86, 1.

89 See Malaurie and Morvan, above n 86, 264–6 (these authors note that the debate is often a ‘dialogue of the deaf’, since each participant has a different conception of law in mind); Ghestin, Goubeaux and Fabre-Magnan, above n 86, 451; and Jestaz, above n 86, 1–8.

90 Ibid.

91 Which is a title of 50 Archives de Philosophie du droit (2007).

92 See the text accompanying n 57 above ff.

93 Le Discours, above n 79, xxix. The translation was taken from Mehren, AT von and Gordley, JR, The Civil Law System: An Introduction to the Comparative Study of Law, 2nd edn (Toronto, Little, Brown & Co, Boston, 1977) 55 Google Scholar. See on this part of Le Discours, B Teyssié, ‘Corpus juris’ in Le Discours, above n 79.

94 See, eg, Tunc, A, ‘La méthode du droit civil: analyse des conceptions françaises’ (1975) Revue internationale de droit comparé 817, 821 Google Scholar; Ghestin et al, above n 86, 434–42 (both expressly referring to Portalis); J Foyer, ‘Loi et jurisprudence’ in Le Discours, above n 79, 28; Teyssié, above n 93, 50–52, Zénati, F, La jurisprudence (Paris, Dalloz, 2001) 221–4Google Scholar; and particularly Deumier, P, ‘Création du droit et rédaction des arrêts par la Cour de cassation’ (2007) 50 Archives de Philosophie du droit 49 Google Scholar. It also true, however, that Portalis added: ‘We leave to [jurisprudence ] the rare and extraordinary cases that do not enter into the plan of a rational legislation, the very variable and very disputed details that should not occupy the legislator at all, and all the things that it would be futile to try and foresee or that a premature foresight could not provide for without danger’. Le Discours, above n 79, xxix (translation by von Mehren and Gordley, above n 93). The future showed that the cases not presupposed by the legislator were far from ‘rare and extraordinary’.

95 Lochner v New York, 198 US 45, 76 (1905) (Holmes J, dissenting).

96 Tunc, above n 94, 822.

97 See the text accompanying n 39 above.

98 Ghestin et al, above n 86, 470. Jestaz, above n 86, 23–6, lists the principles among ‘the sources coming from the top’, where he puts revelation, enacted law (la loi ), and judgments (he uses this term to denote a more general category than jurisprudence ), but autonomous from the Code.

99 See Ghestin et al, above n 86, 459–65; Malaurie and Morvan, above n 86, 276–7; and Atias, C, ‘L’ambiguïté des arrêts dits de principe en droit privé’ (1984) Semaine juridique, édition générale, I, 3145 Google Scholar.

100 Art 4 of the Civil Code: ‘A judge who refuses to give judgment on the pretext of legislation being silent, obscure or insufficient, may be prosecuted for being guilty of a denial of justice’ (translation from Legifrance, an official website of the French Government,—all other translations of the French legislation have this source).

101 See n 94 above.

102 Obligation ‘de dire le droit’. See Malaurie and Morvan, above n 86, 278; and also P Malaurie, ‘Les précédents et le droit: rapport français’ in Precedent, above n 21, 143.

103 Dawson, above n 31, 487.

104 Ibid, 461–79.

105 Ibid, 484.

106 ‘Judges are forbidden to decide cases submitted to them by way of general and regulatory provisions.’ On arrêts de règlement in general, see Dawson, above n 31, 305–14. For a doctrinal exposition of the scope of the prohibition, see M-A Frison-Roche, ‘Commentaire de l’article 5 du Code civil, Application de la loi par le juge’ Juris-classeur de droit civil (1995) (leaflet edition).

107 In the revolutionary period it was truly believed that judges should exercise no normative power, if only by interpreting laws enacted by the legislator; thus the famous Robespierre’s desire to erase the word la jurisprudence from the French language. See Raynaud, P, ‘La loi et la jurisprudence des lumières à la révolution française’ (1985) 30 Archives de Philosophie du droit 61 Google Scholar. See also Zénati, La jurisprudence, above n 94, 45–55.

108 ‘The force of res judicata takes place only with respect to what was the subject matter of a judgment. It is necessary that the thing claimed be the same; that the claim be based on the same grounds; that the claim be between the same parties and brought by them and against them in the same capacity’. See also the text accompanying n 3 above.

109 See n 100 above.

110 Zénati, La jurisprudence, above n 94. Most studies of jurisprudence published after Zénati’s book had come out refer to it.

111 de Secondat Montesquieu, Baron C, Cohler, AM, Miller, BC and Stone, HS (eds and trans), The Spirit of the Laws (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989) (1748) 163 Google Scholar.

112 Référé legislatif was a procedure introduced in 1790, which imposed a duty on the (then) Tribunal de cassation to refer a question of interpretation of law to the legislator if the Tribunal was opposed three consecutive times by the lower court in the same case (see Dawson, above n 31, 378–9. A provision making the decision of the Cour de cassation on the second appeal in cassation binding on the lower court was introduced only in 1837. This, together with abolition of the référé legislatif (in 1828) was of paramount importance for establishing the Cour de cassation’s authority. On the significance of these two changes see F Zénati, ‘La nature de la Cour de cassation’ Bulletin d’information de la Cour de cassation No 575, 15 April 2003, available at; Zenati, La jurisprudence, above n 94, 71; Ghestin et al, above n 86, 416–18). According to (current) Article L.431-6 of the Code on the organisation of the judiciary the second cassation based on the same legal grounds (moyens) must be heard by the General Assembly of the Cour (l’assemblée plénière).

113 Zénati, above n 112.

114 Ibid.

115 Austin, S (ed), The Province of Jurisprudence Determined, 2nd edn (London, John Murray, 1861) 25 Google Scholar.

116 See Zénati, La jurisprudence, above n 94, 129–30 and 221. Dawson, above n 31, 416–31 summarises an earlier French debate on the status of the jurisprudence among the sources of law, including the incorporation theory.

117 Ibid. See also Zénati, La jurisprudence, above n 94, 49–55. The attentive reader will note how similar this is to the Court of Justice’s doctrine of direct effect and its use for the purposes of private enforcement of EC law by ordinary citizens. See, eg, Timmermans, CWA, ‘Judicial Protection Against the Member States: Articles 169 and 177 Revisited’ in Curtin, D and Heukels, T (eds), 2 Institutional Dynamics of European Integration: Essays in Honour of Henry G Schermers (Boston/Dordrecht, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1994)Google Scholar.

118 This applies not only to supreme courts in common law jurisdictions but also to supreme courts based on the German model. For a comparison of different review models, see Geeroms, SMF, ‘Comparative Law and Legal Translation: Why the Terms Cassation, Revision and Appeal Should Not Be Translated …’ (2002) 50 Am J Comp L 201 CrossRefGoogle Scholar (providing a rich historical account of different models of review and noting at 215 that the German revision model ‘as a reaction against the cassation ideal … explicitly intended not to supervise the lower court. Instead, its primary purpose was, and still is, the assurance of uniformity in case law and the harmonious development of existing law without disregarding the interests of the parties’).

119 See n 112 above.

120 See the text accompanying n 52 above, ff.

121 Molfessis, N (ed), Les revirements de jurisprudence: rapport remis à monsieur le pre mier président Guy Canivet, mardi 30 novembre 2004 (Paris, Litec 2005)Google Scholar. For a shorter presentation, see Béguin’s, J interview with Canivet, G and Molfessis, N, ‘Les revirements de jurisprudence: ne vaudront-ils que pour l’avenir?’ (2004) Semaine juridique, édition entreprise, I, 189 Google Scholar.

122 Cour de Cassation, Deuxième chambre civile, 8 July 2004 [Case No 01-10.426], Bull civ II No 387, 374, available at civile_570/arret_no_l. See Deumier, P, ‘Evolutions du pouvoir de modulation dans le temps: fondement et mode d’emploi d’un nouveau pouvoir des juges’ (2007) Revue trimes trielle de droit civil 72 Google Scholar, mapping more recent developments (also in the Conseil d’Etat).

123 P Morvan, ‘Le revirement de jurisprudence pour l’avenir: humble adresse aux magistrats ayant franchi le Rubicon’ (2005) Dalloz, Chr 247.

124 See, eg, Malaurie and Morvan, above n 86, 269–74. It was also discussed whether it had been appropriate to call the effects of the overturning as ‘retroactive,’ if the jurisprudence only ‘declares’ the right interpretation of the law—see T Bonneau, ‘Brèves remarques sur la prétendue rétroactivité des arrêts de principe et des arrêts de revirement’ (1995) Dalloz, Chr 24 and R Libchaber, ‘Retour sur la difficulté récurrente: les justifications du caractère rétroactif ou déclaratif de la jurisprudence’ (2002) Revue trimestrielle de droit civil 176.

125 See the text accompanying nn 79 and 93 above.

126 Le Discours, n 79 above, xxix (translation von Mehren and Gordley, n 93 above).

127 Foyer, above n 94, 28.

128 Zénati, above n 112. On annual reports see also Lasser, above n 30, 199–200.

129 This construction however meets two fundamental problems: one concerning general principles of law, which, once formulated by the Cour, can be ‘corrected’ by the legislator only to a limited extent (see particularly Morvan, P, Le principe de droit privé (Paris, PanthéonAssas, 1999) 735–49Google Scholar), another related to the control of compatibility of the legislation with international treaties binding on France (see, eg, Ghestin et al, above n 86, 248–58).

130 Ghestin et al, above n 86, 446–8.

131 Zénati, La jurisprudence, above n 94, 224.

132 Malaurie and Morvan, above n 86, 276.

133 Already in 1958—see H Sinay, ‘La résurgence des arrêts de règlement’ (1958) Dalloz, Chr 85, and shortly thereafter, Audinet, A, ‘Faut-il ressusciter les arrêts de règlement’ in Mélanges offerts à Jean Brèthe de la Gressaye (Bordeaux, Bière, 1967)Google Scholar. See Malaurie and Morvan, above n 86, 280–81 and La jurisprudence, above n 94, 214–18.

134 See Lasser, Judicial Deliberations, above n 30, 28 and 244.

135 Dawson, above n 31, 413.

136 Zénati, La jurisprudence, above n 94, 177–80 and, more explicitly, Zénati, above n 112.

137 See F Zenati-Castaing [the author of La jurisprudence, above n 94, and Zénati, ‘La nature de la Cour de cassation’, above n 112], ‘La motivation des décisions de justice et les sources du droit’ (2007) Dalloz, Chr 1553, 1557.

138 ‘Appeal in cassation’ corresponds to ‘pourvoi en cassation ‘, while ‘legal grounds’ corresponds to ‘moyens ‘; these are translations which the Court of Justice uses.

139 And yet another translation—’lower court’ refers to ‘juge du fond ‘, that is to say, the court whose decision was appealed in cassation to the Cour de cassation.

140 See n 119 above.

141 Ghestin et al, above n 86, 474–5.

142 See Malaurie and Morvan, above n 86, 280. This feature of brief judgments is wellnoted in the French comparative scholarship. See particularly Watt, H Muir, ‘La motivation des arrêts de la Cour de cassation et l’élaboration de la norme’ in Molfessis, N (ed), La Cour de cassation et l’élaboration du droit (Paris, Economica, 2004) 61 Google Scholar.

143 See Deumier, above n 94 for a discussion of different ways in which the Cour de cas sation is changing or could change its publication practices. On the trend of opening the Cour to the public generally see Canivet, G, ‘Formal and Informal Determinative Factors in the Legitimacy of Judicial Decisions: The Point of View of the French Court of Cassation’ in Huls, N, Adams, M and Bomhoff, J (eds), The Legitimacy of Highest Courts’ Rulings: Judicial Deliberations and Beyond (TMC Asser, The Hague, 2009), 125 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

144 I leave aside here the question of comprehensibility of the Cour’s judgments; despite some criticisms (among the most influential see A Touffait and A Tunc, ‘Pour une motivation plus explicite des décisions de justice notamment de celles de la Cour de cassation’ (1974) RTD civ 487), many academics maintain that it is only a question of a special skill (which should be taught better, for sure) to understand well the judgment of the Cour and its reasoning. See particularly J Ghestin, ‘L’interprétation d’un arrêt de la Cour de cassation’ (2004) Dalloz, Chr 2239. One should not overlook difficulties which the common law style of opinion writ ing causes as well; see Samuels, A, ‘Those Multiple Long Judgments’ (2005) 24 Civil Justice Quarterly 279 Google Scholar.

145 See Zenati-Castaing, above n 137.

146 On the role of the lower courts and their decisions see, eg, M-A Frison-Roche and S Bories, ‘La jurisprudence massive’ (1993) Dalloz, Chron 287.

147 Halberstam, D, ‘Constitutional Heterarchy: The Centrality of Conflict in the European Union and the United States’ forthcoming in Dunoff, J and Trachtman, J (eds), Ruling the World? Constitutionalism, International Law and Global Government (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, not yet publishedGoogle Scholar), available http://at:

148 See n 129 above.

149 See, eg, Trabucchi, A, ‘L’effet “erga omnes” des décisions préjudicielles rendues par la Cour de justice des Communautés européennes’ (1974) 10 Revue trim dr eur 56, 62Google Scholar; Toth, AG, ‘The Authority of Judgments of the European Court of Justice: Binding Force and Legal Effects’ (1984) 4 YB Eur L 1, 69 Google Scholar, or more recently Lenaerts, K, Arts, D and Maselis, I in Bray, R (ed), Procedural Law of the European Union, 2nd edn (London, Sweet & Maxwell, 2006), 195 Google Scholar.

150 Pfander, JE, ‘Member State Liability and Constitutional Challenge in the United States and Europe’ (2003) 51 Am J Comp L 237, 248CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

151 Joined Cases C-6/90 and C-9/90 Andrea Francovich and Danila Bonifaci and others v Italian Republic [1991] ECR I-5357, para 35.

152 Trabucchi, above n 149, 61–2.

153 See, eg, contributions in C Joerges, Y Mény and JHH Weiler (eds), What Kind of Constitution for What Kind of Polity? Responses to Joschka Fischer, Jean Monnet Working Paper No 7/00, available at

154 Merryman, above n 76, 28.

155 See van Caenegem, RC, European Law in the Past and the Future. Unity and Diversity over Two Millennia (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002) 54–72Google Scholar, who calls both ‘foundational documents’. I do not suggest that the Treaties should ever be based on the same foundational ideas as the US Constitution or the Civil Code. Here I only point out the difference.

156 Lenaerts, K, ‘Constitutionalism and the Many Faces of Federalism’ (1990) 38 AJL 205, 210Google Scholar, quoting Case 294/83 Parti écologiste ‘Les Verts’ v European Parliament [1986] ECR 1339, para 23.

157 See particularly MP Maduro, ‘How Constitutional Can the European Union Be? The Tension Between Intergovernmentalism and Constitutionalism in the European Union’ in JHH Weiler and CL Eisgruber (eds), Altneuland: The EU Constitution in a Contextual Perspective, Jean Monnet Working Paper No 5/04, available http://at: www.jeanmonnetprogram. org/papers/04/040501-l, 4–13, with references to other classics.

158 Chalmers, , ‘Judicial Authority and the Constitutional Treaty’ (2005) 3 International Journal of Constitutional Law (ICON) 448, 448 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

159 See, eg, Editorial (2008) 45 CML Rev 1571.

160 One of the rare examples could be Council Resolution of 19 December 2002 on the amendment of the Directive concerning liability for defective products, OJ 2003 C26/2–3, where the Council states that ‘[the] legal situation [created by the Court’s interpretation of the relevant provisions of the directive] gives rise to concern’, and ‘considers … there is a need to assess whether [the directive] should be modified’. But as we can see, the Council’s concern is expressed in most cautious terms and does not question the authority of the Court as such. I am grateful to S Weatherill for drawing my attention to this.

161 Case 120/78 Rewe-Zentral AG v Bundesmonopolverwaltung für Branntwein [1979] ECR 649.

162 Mancini, GF and Keeling, DT, ‘Language, Culture and Politics in the Life of the European Court of Justice’ (1995) 1 Columbia Journal of European Law 397, 405Google Scholar, quoting Koopmans, T, ‘The Role of Law in the Next Stage of European Integration’ (1986) 35 ICLQ 925, 928CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

163 Ibid, 406.

164 See Weiler, JHH, ‘Epilogue: Towards a Common Law of International Trade’ in Weiler, JHH (ed), The EU, the WTO and the NAFTA: Towards a Common Law of International Trade? (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001) 219 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

165 On the few examples of Treaty amendments see Weiler, JHH and Haltern, UR, ‘The Autonomy of the Community Legal Order—Through the Looking Glass’ (1996) 37 Harvard International Law Journal 411, 416 (fn 22)Google Scholar, but as the current developments concerning the Lisbon Treaty well confirm, in the Union of 27 any Treaty amendment is extremely difficult to adopt. As regards the US, Gerhardt, MJ, The Power of Precedent (New York, Oxford University Press, 2008) 9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, notes that ‘the only alternative for politically retaliating against specific precedent [is] the appointment of new justices dedicated to overturning them’. (Gerhardt also lists the four examples of express constitutional amendments adopted in reaction to a specific ruling of the Court.)

166 Claes, M, The National Courts’ Mandate in the European Constitution (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2006) 3 Google Scholar.

167 Halberstam, D, ‘Comparative Federalism and the Role of the Judiciary’ in Whittington, KE, Kelemen, D and Caldeira, GA (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008) 142 Google Scholar.

168 See generally Zeigler, DH, ‘Gazing into the Crystal Ball: Reflections on the Standards State Judges Should Use to Ascertain Federal Law’ (1999) 40 William & Mary Law Review 1143 Google Scholar.

169 See, eg, Friedman, above n 46.

170 See the text following note 45 above.

171 In addition to the Court of Justice there is the Court of First Instance and the Civil Service Tribunal. In relation to the Member State courts only the former has jurisdiction through which it can produce decisions relevant for member state courts, but this is still in rather limited fields.

172 See the next Section.

173 Opinion of Advocate General Colomer in Case C-17/00 François De Coster v Collège des bourgmestre et échevins de Watermael-Boitsfort [2001] ECR I-9445, para 74. See also K Lenaerts [a judge of the Court], The Unity of European Law and the Overload of the ECJ—The System of Preliminary Rulings Revisited’ in Pernice, I, Kokott, J and Saunders, C (eds), The Future of the European Judicial System in a Comparative Perspective (Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2006) 232–6Google Scholar.

174 Although the examples are rather few; the most well-known concerns the Court of Justice’s gradual protection of fundamental rights in reaction to reservations made by the German Federal Constitutional Court. See Claes, above n 166, 596–620.

175 With still few exceptions of cross-references among various member state courts, supported by emerging networks between them. Despite the Court of Justice’s efforts, information on member state courts’ decisions applying Union law is still scarce and unsystematic and cannot play a role comparable to that played by the US lower federal courts’ decisions.

176 Case C-436/04 Criminal proceedings against Leopold Henri Van Esbroeck [2006] ECR I-2333, para 36.

177 Art 300(6) EC. See, eg, Lenaerts, Arts and Maselis, above n 149, 408–15.

178 See, eg, Whittaker, S, ‘Precedent in English Law: A View from the Citadel’ (2006) European Review of Private Law 705, 741–2Google Scholar.

179 See J Komárek, ‘Infringements in Application of Community Law: Some Problems and (Im)possible Solutions’ (2007) Zero Issue Review of European Administrative Law 87.

180 See Davies, G, ‘Abstractness and concreteness in the preliminary ruling procedure: implications for the division of powers and effective market regulation’ in Shuibhne, NN (ed), Regulating the Internal Market (Northampton MA/Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2006)Google Scholar.

181 See n 14 above.

182 Note that Arnull acknowledges that ‘[o]ccasionally, the Court seeks to distinguish a case on which a party has sought to rely’. However, distinguishing a case and identifying its ratio are analytically two different things, although they aim at the same result—avoidance of precedent. By distinguishing the subsequent court seeks to show that the case before it is not relevant, while by identifying some statement in the precedent judgment as ‘dicta’ it assumes that it is not binding (even if relevant).

183 The Common Law TraditionDeciding Appeals (Toronto, Little, Brown, Boston, 1960) 77–91.

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