Concept of a court or tribunal under the reference for a preliminary ruling: the Court of Justice of the European Union practice

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Author: Elena Sorokina

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2021-3-105-126

Keywords: admissibility of request for a preliminary ruling, concept of court or tribunal, Court of Justice of the European Union, independence, national courts, preliminary reference procedure

Abstract

The aim of the present article is to analyse the concept of a “court or tribunal” and its meaning within the preliminary ruling procedure of Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The extensive case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union confirms the need for such analyse. The concept of a “court or tribunal” is one of EU law. There is no abstract definition of a “court or tribunal” in the Treaties and other EU legal acts. Also the Court of Justice has never clarified what a court or tribunal is under Article 267 TFEU. However, according to the Court of Justice’s practice a number of organizational and functional criteria are relevant for determining when a national body can make a preliminary reference. The Court of Justice does not focus on the nomes iuris of a body or its status in the national judicial system. In addition, the Court of Justice examines whether the body making the request for a preliminary ruling is a court or tribunal of a particular EU member state. It is also clear from the Court of Justice’s case law that not all of the different criteria have to be unconditionally met in order for a body to qualify as a court or tribunal that may refer preliminary questions and that some carry considerable more weight than others. It is possible to find a number of the Court of Justice decisions which may qualify in some respect too flexible and insufficiently consistent, with a lack of legal certainty, when requests for a preliminary ruling are declared admissible despite jurisdictional status of national bodies are being questionable. Still, such practice of the Court of Justice and flexibility approach take into account the changes occurring at national level and to be able to develop its case-law abreast of those changes. However, the opposite tendency emerges and the Court of Justice taking a more restrictive position than in previous pronouncements. The Court of Justice pays increasing attention to the criterion of independence when national body’s make a preliminary reference. Such an approach allows a further consistent development of case law specifying both the scope of application and the content of the criterion of independence by the Court of Justice and contributes to optimising the mechanism of cooperation in the preliminary ruling procedure.

About the author: Elena Sorokina – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Research Fellow of the Human Rights Department, Institute of State and Law, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Sorokina E. (2021) “Sud” ili “tribunal” kak sub’ekt preyuditsial'noy protsedury: avtonomnoe ponimanie v praktike Suda ES [Concept of a court or tribunal under the reference for a preliminary ruling: the Court of Justice of the European Union practice]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol.11, no.3, pp.105–126. (In Russian).

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