What is the European Court of Justice?

The European Court of Justice actually comprises three courts: the Court of Justice itself, the General Court and the European Civil Service Tribunal. The last only adjudicates labour disputes between EU civil servants and EU Institutions.

Most of the cases heard by the Court of Justice come through the preliminary reference procedure where a national court asks the Court of Justice too rule on a point of EU law necessary to decide a dispute before it. The Court of Justice also hears cases brought by the Commission against a Member State failing to comply with EU law. The Commission can also ask the Court to fine the Member State where the latter has failed to comply with an earlier judgment of the Court or has failed to transpose a Directive correctly into national law.

The European Court of Justice also hears actions brought against the EU Institutions. The workload is shared between the Court of Justice and the General Court. Cases brought by EU Institutions against other Institutions are decided by the former whilst the latter hears actions brought by private individuals. Actions brought by Member States against the EU Institutions are shared between the two courts.

View all facts

Subscribe to our fortnightly newsletter

Get a round-up of The UK in a Changing Europe’s latest analysis pieces, videos, explainers, podcasts, reports, events, infographics and more, written by the organisation’s director Anand Menon. PS his mum says it’s "quite good".

Sign up to our newsletter

View our latest newsletter