How the Court works – the basics

How the Court works – the basics


Ensuring that EU law is respected throughout the EU is the job of the
Court of Justice of the European Union. But how does it do this? This one institution actually
has two distinct courts. The Court of Justice,
which is the higher court… …and the General Court. The higher court, the Court of Justice, is made up of one judge
from each EU member state. Not all judges hear every single case. Each case is allocated to a chamber. The number of judges present reflects
how important or complicated the case is. The judges are supported
by Advocates General. Like judges, the Advocate General
sits on the bench and hears the parties. They then give their own impartial opinion
on a legal solution to the case, before the judges themselves decide. These chambers deal
with a wide variety of subject matters. A fundamental role of the Court is to
answer questions from national judges about how EU law should be interpreted. This allows all national courts
to apply EU law in the same way. Another of its main functions is to settle disputes that occur
between different EU institutions. The European Commission can also bring
cases against a Member State who it believes has infringed EU law. The General Court has more judges. They too sit in chambers
of different sizes depending on the importance
and complexity of the case. The General Court hears cases
brought by individuals or companies wanting to overturn a decision made
against them by an EU institution. It also deals with cases brought
by Member States against decisions taken by the Commission. This means that, whilst the General Court
hears cases on a wide variety of matters… …cases about trademarks, competition
law, agriculture and anti-terrorist legislation and sanctions feature heavily. Any official language of the EU
can be used in front of both courts… …with the Court providing translation
and interpretation where necessary. Rulings are published in all EU languages,
so that all citizens can read them, and see how the European law protects us.

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