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Study Notes

European Court of Justice

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

The European Court of Justice sits in LUXEMBOURG. It has one judge per member country, but they swear allegiance to the EU. This means there are 28 judges, but they usually sit in odd numbers, so that there is always a majority decision.

The Court decides whether EU laws and actions of the Commission and member states conform to the Founding Treaties (c.f. the US Supreme Court), and imposes fines on member states that violate EU law (see notes on the Judiciary).

The reason the European Court of Justice is so important rests on two essential cases on which it has ruled over time. In Van Gen den Loos (1963) a Dutch transport firm won a case against its own Government for increasing the duty on a product imported from Germany as the ECJ ruled that the European Community constitutes a new legal order consisting of all member states and their nationals, all of whom are covered by those laws. This was backed up by Costa v ENEL (1964) in which the court ruled that member states had definitely transferred sovereign rights to the Community, which means that Union law could not be over-ridden by domestic law.

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