New Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice

01 Oct 2012 | by Caroline Sweeney

Faced with a constant rise in the number of cases dominated by references for a preliminary ruling, the Court of Justice is adapting its rules of procedure to ensure that the particular features of those cases can more readily be taken into consideration, while at the same time strengthening its ability to dispose within a reasonable period of time of all the cases that are brought before it.

In recasting its rules of procedure, which will enter into force on 1 November 2012, the Court seeks primarily to adapt to the changes in its caseload. The new measures are designed to reflect the fact that references for a preliminary ruling from the courts and tribunals of the Member States represent, quantitatively, the primary category of cases brought before the Court.  The new rules of procedure devote a separate title to such references, while making the rules in that title both clearer and more comprehensive, for litigants as well as for national courts and tribunals.

A second key objective of the recasting of the rules is to encourage cases to be dealt with swiftly and efficiently. Those measures include, in particular, the possibility of the Court adopting a decision with a view to limiting the length of written pleadings or observations lodged before it, or the relaxation of the preconditions for the Court’s adoption of a reasoned order, particularly where the answer to the question referred by a national court or tribunal for a preliminary ruling admits of no reasonable doubt.

In addition to the pursuit of the aforementioned objectives, the new rules of procedure seek to clarify existing rules and practices. Thus, a clearer distinction is drawn between the rules that apply to all types of action and those that are specific to each type (references for a preliminary ruling, direct actions and appeals), while all the articles of the new rules are specifically numbered and headed, making searches easier.

Finally, this recasting of the rules of procedure simplifies the existing rules, either by repealing certain rules that are outdated or not applied, or by revising the procedure for dealing with certain cases.

The Court of Justice remains convinced that, together, these measures offer the best means of enabling the Court to continue to fulfil its task of ensuring that the law is observed in the interpretation and application of the Treaties within a reasonable period of time.

To read the full Rules of Procedure, please click here