The European Court of Justice is one of the highest institutions in the EU. It is responsible for ensuring that all member states (countries) comply with the rules and regulations set out by the European Union. Often they are called on to act as referee between member states or people who don't want to comply with these rules and regulations.
Another reason that people bring a case to the European Court of Justice could be in regards too a new legislation introduced which they state affects them or is in violations of their rights. Any one can bring a case to the ECJ
Responsibility of The European Court of Justice
Most of the judges who hold positions in this court will be former barristers or lawyers or a judge who worked in the highest court in that own country. In their current place in the European Court of Justice they now listen to all cases by person or member states and then make a ruling. To aid them with their ruling they have the help of Advocate Generals who also must have held just as high a place in their country. The court has up of 27 judges, that's one from each member state.
They are also responsible for insuring that all member states in the European Union follow the rules and regulations set out by the European Commission. Any member state who does not agree to carry out directives or regulation into their legislation will end up bringing the power of the European Court of Justice down on them. The resulting ruling could end up costing a country a fine in the form of capital
Types of cases brought to the European Court of Justice
The court listens to a range of different types of cases. The most common type of cases they listen to are as follows.
1. Direct Actions
These are cases which bought by organisation or people against any type of decision which the EU carry out. These decisions could be based on directives or regulations which the EU want added to the countries legislation.
2. Failure to Fulfil Obligation
In this instance it's the EU who are bringing a case against either a member state or an organisation who has failed to follow the rules.
3. Failure to Act
This action relates to the EU institutions and decisions that they need to carry out.
4. Annulment Action
This action relates to the EU laws which either violate the EU treaties or the rights of citizens.
5. Preliminary Ruling
If a national court of a member state want to get their own interpretation of the EU law in this instance they ask the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling.
How to apply to get your case heard.
To bring a case to the Court of Justice, you must give a written action to the Registrar. They will then publish this notice in the Official Journal. The party being sued has a period of 1 month to reply to the suit. Both parties the claimant and respondent can correspond within this time period. The progress of each person's case will be overseen by one Advocate General and sometimes a Judge-Rapporteur.
Anyone who wants to bring a case to the court is free to do so, there is no charge. However you do need to find a lawyer who can practise th European Law. That is where the cost of your case could get high. However if you aren't able to afford the cost of the lawyer you can apply for free legal aid. But to receive this legal aid you must supply supporting documents to verify your claim.
Ruling of The Court
Once the period of 1 month has passed both parties can decide to either go ahead with the court case or not. If they do decide to go ahead the Judge-Rapporteur will prepare a report for The Court and the Advocate General will present their views on whether there needs to be a public hearing. The President of The Court will be the one to decide when the hearing will be heard.
If it goes ahead with the case then the Advocate General and the bench will be the ones who will listen to both sides present their argument. Once both sides have finished giving their argument the court might have a few question they need answered to get more clarification to help with their ruling.
A few weeks later the case will come up again but this time it is the Advocate General who will analysis the case and present their findings. They will issue the court with a suggestion and this will be the last stage before a judgement is given. At this instance The Court might decide to pass a judgement there and then without giving an opinions at a later date. What ruling The Court now decides on will be final.