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The Reform of the General Court: An Exercise in Minimalist (but Radical) Institutional Reform

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 June 2017

Daniel SARMIENTO*
Affiliation:
Faculty of Law, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Abstract

In this article, I scrutinise the impact of the reform that will double the number of judges at the General Court. I examine the consequences of a wider use of a five-judge chamber, the continuation of generalist chambers, and the possible departure from the General Court’s minimal standard of review of legality. But greater efficiency at the General Court will have important consequences for the Court of Justice too. The Court of Justice must anticipate more appeals following the General Court’s increase in productivity; the transfer of jurisdiction to the General Court to hear preliminary references is considered. Profound changes at the General Court will lead to the Court of Justice becoming a very different institution to the one we know.

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Articles
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© Centre for European Legal Studies, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge 

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References

1 See eg ‘Justice, the EU and its £415m gilded Tower of Babel’ (Daily Telegraph, 8 February 2014).

2 Draft amendments to the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union and to Annex I thereto, 2011/0901 (COD); see also the Consolidated version of Protocol (No 3) on the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union, annexed to the Treaties, consolidation as of 31 August 2016.

3 Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2015/2422 [2015] OJ L341/14.

4 See note 3 above.

5 See Art 2, ibid.

6 See Art 3, ibid.

7 See Art 3(1), para 2, ibid.

8 Amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the General Court (OJ L217, 12 August 2016, pp 73–77).

9 Response of the Court of Justice to the Presidency’s invitation to present new proposals on the procedures for increasing the number of Judges at the General Court of the European Union, 2011/0901B (COD) (20 November 2014), p 2.

10 Rec 5, Regulation 2015/2422, see note 3 above.

11 See Court of Justice of the European Union, Annual Report 2000, Statistics of Judicial Activity of the Court of Justice and Annual Report 2014. http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/jcms/Jo2_7000/en/

12 For an overall view of damages actions resulting from a breach of a reasonable time in procedures before the General Court, see the Opinions of Advocate General Sharpston in Gascogne Sack Deutschland, C-40/12 P, EU:C:2013:768; Kendrion, C-50/12 P, EU:C:2013:771 and Groupe Gascogne, C-58/12 P, EU:C:2013:770. This process has culminated in a series of General Court judgments granting damages as a result of the General Court’s unreasonable delay in handling cases, see inter alia Plásticos Españoles, T-40/15, EU:T:2016:133.

13 AM Collins, The General Court: Enlargement or Reform? (Annual Conference on European Law, King’s College, London, 11 March 2016), https://www.kcl.ac.uk/law/research/centres/european/Judge-Collins-lecture.pdf; F Dehousse, The Reform of the EU Courts: The Need of a Management Approach (2011), Egmont Paper 53; F Dehousse, The Reform of the EU Courts (II): Abandoning the Management Approach by Doubling the General Court (2016) Egmont Paper 83; ‘EU Judge Dehousse’s Farewell Address’ (19 September 16) with a short introduction by Profs Alemanno and Pech https://www.eulawanalysis.blogspot.com; M Van der Woude, ‘Pour une protection juridictionnelle effective: Un rappel des objectifs de 1988’ (2014) 4 Concurrences, 9; Jacobs, F, ‘The Court of Justice in the Twenty-First Century’ in A Rosas, E Levits and Y Bot (eds), The Court of Justice and the Construction of Europe. Analysis and Perspectives on Sixty Years of Case-Law (Asser Press, Springer, 2013), p 51 Google Scholar.

14 Laina, F and Laurinen, E, ‘The EU Cartel Settlement Procedure: Current Status and Challenges’ (2013) 4(4) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice 302 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15 The press and posts on the internet regularly referred to the critical comments from several judges of the General Court, including its President, Mr Jaeger. See Robinson, D, ‘The 1st rule of ECJ fight club…is about to be broken’ (Financial Times Brussels Blog, 27 May 2016)Google Scholar; Quatremer, J, ‘La justice européenne au bord de la crise de nerfs’ (Libération, 27 May 2015); Alemmano, A and Pech, L, ‘EU Judge Dehousse’s Farewell Address to the CJEU’, see note 13 above. See also ‘EU governments choose 12 States to appoint new judges as part of Court overhaul’ (MLex, 17 March 2015), p 2 ; ‘EU Judges dismiss the Plan to revamp the General Court as a yesterday’s solution’ (MLex, 29 May 2015), pp 1–2; ‘Si tu ne me donnes pas les juges…’, interview with A Marinho e Pinto (Le Jeudi, 19 March 2015).

16 Court of Justice Press Release No 44/15 (Luxembourg, 28 May 2015).

17 A Alemanno and L Pech, ‘Reform of the EU’s Court System: Why a more accountable – not a larger – Court is the way forward’ (EU Law Analysis, 16 March 2015) and ‘Where do we stand on the reform of the EU’s Court System? On a reform as short-sighted as the attempts to force through its adoption’ (EU Law Analysis, 22 July 2015) https://www.eulawanalysis.blogspot.com; see also A Alemanno and L Pech, ‘Thinking Justice Outside the Dock: A Critical Assessment of the Reform of the EU’s Court System’ (2017) 54 Common Market Law Review 1.

18 Interview with Koen Lenaerts (Le Jeudi, 28 January 2016).

19 Rules of procedure of the General Court, [2015] OJ L105/1.

20 Commission Opinion on the requests for the amendment of the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union, presented by the Court, COM (2011) 596 final.

21 Doc 10043/1/15 REV1 ADD1, p 3.

22 Art 3(1), para 2, Regulation 2015/2422: ‘In particular, that report shall focus on the efficiency of the General Court, the necessity and effectiveness of the increase to 56 Judges, the use and effectiveness of resources and the further establishment of specialised chambers and/or other structural changes’.

23 Collins, see note 13 above, p 17.

24 Ibid.

25 See inter alia J Shesol, Supreme Power. Franklin Roosevelt vs The Supreme Court (WW Norton & Co, 2011).

26 T Dumbrovsky, ‘The European Court of Justice after the Eastern Enlargement: An Emerging Inner Circle of Judges’, (2011) EUSA Conference Paper, Boston, https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2551211.

27 Art 49, Consolidated version of Protocol (No 3) on the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union, see note 2 above; Arts 30 and 31, Rules of Procedure of the General Court, see note 19 above.

28 The Court of First Instance appointed an Advocate General among its judges on four occasions, in the cases of Rhône-Poulenc v Commission, T-1/89, EU:C:1989:648 (Judge Vesterdorf); Tetra Pak Rausing v Commission, T-51/89, EU:T:1990:41 (Judge Kirchner); Stahlwerke Peine-Salzgitter v Commission, T-120/89, EU:T:1991:32 (Judge Biancarelli) and Automec v Commission, T-24/90, EU:T:1992:97 (Judge Edward).

29 On the importance of language at the Court, see Cohen, M, ‘Judges or Hostages? The Bureaucratisation of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights’ in B Davis and F Nicola (eds), European Law Stories (Cambridge University Press, 2017)Google Scholar. On the role of nationality in relation to legal secretaries and the influence of French speaking staff, see A Huyue Zhang, ‘The Faceless Court’, (2016) 38(1) University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law 71.

30 Bopp v EUIPO, C-653/15 P, EU:C:2016:277.

31 Ibid, para 6.

32 See also the Court orders in Kajman v EUIPO, C-619/15 P, EU:C:2016:475; Gat Microencapsulation v EUIPO, C-639/15 P, EU:C:2016:376; Matratzen Concord v EUIPO, C-35/15 P, EU:C:2016:314; Min Liu v EUIPO, C-41/16 P, EU:C:2016:413; Copernicus Trademarks v EUIPO, C-43/16 P, EU:C:2016:44; Actega Terra v EUIPO, C-63/16 P, EU: C:2016:260; Hewlett Packard Development Company v EUIPO, C-77/16 P, EU:C:2016:373; Kenzo Tsujimoto v EUIPO, C-87/16 P, EU:C:2016:592; LTJ Diffusion v EUIPO, C-94/16 P, EU:C:2016:461; Tayto Group v EUIPO, C-272/16 P, EU:C:2016:833; Grupo Bimbo v EUIPO, C-285/16 P, EU:C:2016:773; Medis v EUIPO, C-313/16 P, C:2016:475; 100% Capri Italia v EUIPO, C-351/16 P, EU:C:2016:866; Franmax UAB v EUIPO, C-361/16 P, EU:C:2016:834. In the area of procurement, see the Court order in European Dynamics v Entreprise commune européenne pour ITER et le développement de l’énergie de fusion (Fusion for Energy), C-88/16 P, EU:C:2016:539.

33 See Court of Justice of the European Union, Annual Report 2015: Judicial Activity. p 83. http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/jcms/Jo2_7000/en/

34 Art 3(2) provides that ‘By 26 December 2017, the Court of Justice shall draw up a report for the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on possible changes to the distribution of competence for preliminary rulings under Art 267 TFEU. The report shall be accompanied, where appropriate, by legislative requests’.

35 See Response of the Court of Justice to the Presidency’s invitation to present new proposals on the procedures for increasing the number of Judges at the General Court of the European Union, note 9 above. In its response, the CJEU stated that the implementation of the review procedure ‘ha[d] proved somewhat complex’ (p 5). In reference to the inconveniencies of specialised courts, the Court of Justice mentioned again the review procedure as a considerable drawback: ‘The establishment of new specialised courts increases the risks of the unity and consistency of EU law being affected, since there would always be two courts that might be seized of similar issues, one by way of the preliminary ruling procedure (Court of Justice), the other by way of an appeal (General Court), in addition to the problems linked to a likely increase in the number of reviews’ (p 6, italics added), see Response of the Court of Justice to the Presidency’s invitation to present new proposals on the procedures for increasing the number of Judges at the General Court of the European Union, ibid.

36 The Court of Justice delivered four judgments in review procedures, see M v EMEA, C-197/09 RX-II, C:2009:804; Arango Jaramillo and Others v EIB, C-334/12 RX-II, EU:C:2013:134; Commission v Strack, C-579/12 RX-II, EU:C:2013:570; and Missir Mamachi di Lusignano v Commission, C-417/14 RX-II, EU:2015:588.

37 See Tracol, X, ‘The New Rules of Procedure on the Review Procedure and the Application of General Principles in EU Civil Service Law and Litigation: Strack’ (2014) 51 Common Market Law Review 993 Google Scholar.

38 See inter alia Gerard, D, ‘Breaking the EU Antitrust Enforcement Deadlock: Re-empowering the Courts?’ (2011) 36 European Law Review 457 Google Scholar; Bailey, D, ‘The Scope of Judicial Review under Article 81 EC’ (2004) 41 Common Market Law Review 1327 ; Nazzini, R, ‘Administrative Enforcement, Judicial Review and Fundamental Rights in EU Competition Law: A Comparative Contextual-Functionalist Perspective’ (2012) 49 Common Market Law Review 971 .

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