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Method of citing the case-law

method of citing the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union on the basis of the ECLI (European Case-Law Identifier)

I. The context of the method of citing the case-law

As part of an initiative taken by the Council, a European Case-Law Identifier (ECLI) has recently been created. [1] That identifier is intended to provide an unambiguous reference both to national and European case-law and to define a minimum set of uniform metadata for the case-law.  It thus facilitates the consultation and citation of case-law in the European Union.

The ECLI is composed of the following four mandatory sections, in addition to the prefix ‘ECLI':

  • The code corresponding to the Member State of the court or tribunal concerned or to the European Union where it is an EU Court;
  • The abbreviation corresponding to the court which gave the decision;
  • The year of the decision;
  • An order number of a maximum of 25 alphanumeric characters, in a format decided by each Member State or supranational court or tribunal concerned. The order number may not contain any punctuation sign other than full stops (‘.') or colons (‘:'), the latter separating the sections of an ECLI.

Following the recommendation of the Council that the Court of Justice of the European Union adopt the European Case-Law Identifier system, the Court has assigned an ECLI to all decisions delivered by the European Union Courts since 1954 and to the Opinions and Views of the Advocates General.

For example, the ECLI of the judgment of the Court of Justice of 12 July 2005 in Case C-403/03 Schempp is the following: ‘EU:C:2005:446'. [2]

It is broken down as follows:

  • ‘EU' indicates that it is a decision delivered by an EU Court or Tribunal (for decisions of national courts, the code corresponding to the relevant Member State appears in the place of ‘EU');
  • ‘C' indicates that this decision was delivered by the Court of Justice. Decisions delivered by the General Court are indicated by the letter 'T' and those of the Civil Service Tribunal by ‘F';
  • ‘2005' indicates that the decision was delivered during 2005;
  • ‘446' indicates that it is the 446th ECLI attributed in respect of that year.

II. The method of citing the case-law

The method of citing the case-law adopted by the Court of Justice of the European Union combines the ECLI with the usual name of the decision and the case's number in the Register.

Thus, this new method of citation:

- improves the accessibility of legal decisions in that the references to the case-law contain, each time they appear, the information necessary unambiguously to identify the decision to which reference is made;

- gives a greater linguistic neutrality since the format of the citation is largely identical in all languages and, thus, contains fewer elements to be translated; and

- facilitates the automatic insertion of hyperlinks on the ECLI, the decision cited and the relevant paragraph of that decision.

In addition, a distinction will remain, for all three Courts, between the method of making the first citation and that of the subsequent citations.
Thus, for the Court of Justice and the Civil Service Tribunal, as from the second reference to the same case, the case's number in the Register will not be given. As regards the General Court, the reference does not contain either the date of the decision or the number in the Register nor, as appropriate, the publication reference.

Finally, please note that the Courts will each apply the method of citation used by that particular Court, in the decisions adopted by it, for references both to its own case-law and to that of the other two European Union Courts or Tribunals.

The different sections of the method of citing case-law are as follows:

  • First reference
Court of Justice and Civil Service Tribunal

General Court:

  • Subsequent references

Court of Justice and Civil Service Tribunal

General Court:

The method of citing the case-law has been introduced progressively by each European Union Court or Tribunal during the first half of 2014.

1. Council conclusions inviting the introduction of the European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) and a minimum set of uniform metadata for case law (OJ 2011 C 127, p. 1). For more information, please see:
https://e-justice.europa.eu/content_european_case_law_identifier_ecli-175-en.do?init=true.
2.
In the interest of not extending the reference to no good purpose, the prefix ‘ECLI' will not be included in the citation of the decisions of the Court of Justice, the General Court or the Civil Service Tribunal.

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