In the Media

European court in judicial selection crisis

PUBLISHED July 18, 2012

Thursday 19 July 2012 by Jonathan Rayner

The crisis in Europe's top court was set to escalate this week, with the 27 EU member states arguing over how to select 12 more judges to help handle a mounting caseload.

The president of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which is made up of senior judges from each of the 27 member states, wrote earlier this year to the presidents of the European parliament and the Council of the European Union proposing reforms which included appointing 12 more judges to its Grand Chamber.

The CJEU rules in disputes about EU treaties and other EU legislation, and the Grand Chamber hears its most sensitive cases. The CJEU's decisions are binding on EU institutions and member states. The court has been unable to keep pace with the volume of cases appearing before it, however, not least because 12 more states have acceded to the EU since the CJEU was established in 2003. At the end of 2010 it had 1,300 cases pending.

Its appeal for more judges has been delayed following a European parliament meeting this month at which the member states failed to agree which of them would provide the judges. In his Gazette blog, Jonathan Goldsmith, secretary general of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, blamed governments putting 'national interests before European ones'.

A Law Society spokesperson said that the 'momentum for reform of the court' is crucial and should not be lost. She said: 'While the Society suggests that the creation of a tribunal to deal with intellectual property cases would be a more effective way of dealing with the problems faced by the court, the Society also believes there would be clear advantages to adding more judges to the bench.'

Europe minister David Lidington MP said he backed plans to send more judges to the court's Grand Chamber.