The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is the judicial institution of the European Union. This means that it deals with disputes between parties as the courts do in Ireland. The ECJ has the important function of ensuring that European law is interpreted and applied in the same way in every member state. It sits in Luxembourg and is composed of 27 judges, one judge from each member state. In addition to the 27 judges at the ECJ, there are 8 Advocate Generals who deliver reasoned opinions on cases to assist the ECJ in making its decisions.
Judges and Advocate Generals of the ECJ must have the qualifications to be appointed to the highest national courts in their member states or they may be jurisconsults (academic lawyers). Their independence must be beyond doubt. This means that once they are appointed, they may not hold any other office of an administrative or political nature and they may not engage in any occupation, paid or unpaid. The Judges and Advocate Generals are appointed by joint agreement of the governments of the member states. They have a renewable term of 6 years.
The European Court of Justice sits and hears cases all year round.
The Court of First Instance was set up in 1989. The Court of First Instance rules on certain categories of cases at first instance, for example, cases relating to breach of competition law, breach of commercial policy or social policy or disputes concerning EU staff regulations. Decisions of the Court of First Instance may be appealed to the ECJ.
The ECJ upholds the Treaties and ensures that European law is interpreted and applied in the same way across the EU through various forms of legal action. These include:
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