Statistics concerning the judicial activity of the General Court
See detailed statistics for the General Court
Commented statistics on the activity of the General Court in 2022
By Emmanuel Coulon, Registrar of the General Court
The statistics relating to the judicial activity of the Court are an essential instrument for steering judicial activity, a tool for assessing the effects of judicial choices and, in terms of litigation, reflect the legislative, regulatory and decision-making activity of the institutions and bodies of the European Union. The analysis of these figures, produced by the Court Registry, is part of the obligation to give a public account of the work carried out by the Court and the trends noted in the evolution of litigation. It is therefore essential.
In 2022, the Court continued its policy of dynamic case management and arranged for the resumption of proceedings in large groups of cases that had been suspended until the resolution of cases identified as pilot cases. Those changes led to an increase in judicial activity, as is clear from the figures relating to the activity of the Registry. At the same time, the Court has remained fully connected to the economic, societal, environmental and geopolitical developments in the European Union and its Member States. After the cases linked to the health crisis (State aid, public procurement, trade policy, public health, access to documents and civil service cases) which marked 2021, of particular note in 2022 was the emergence of litigation concerning the restrictive measures adopted by the European Union in the context of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
In very general terms, it is noted that, with 904 cases brought and 858 cases closed, the number of pending cases has mechanically increased to 1 474.
Cases brought: overview of the main matters concerned
The number of cases brought exceeds that of the previous two years (882 in 2021 and 847 in 2020), but remains lower than in previous years (939 in 2019, 917 in 2017, 974 in 2016, and 912 in 2014). Since the Court has jurisdiction to hear at first instance direct actions brought by Member States and natural and legal persons, with the exception of actions reserved for the Court of Justice, its activity is largely dependent on the acts adopted by the institutions and bodies of the European Union and on challenges to the legality of those acts.
Among the 40 or so matters in which actions are brought, the areas of the European Union's external action (restrictive measures) and the competition rules applicable to States (State aid) merit particular attention.
Litigation relating to restrictive measures, which, it is observed, is perfectly linked to geopolitical developments, represented, with 103 new cases, 11.4% of the total number of cases brought in 2022 (compared with 4.8% in 2021 and 3% in 2020). Since February 2022, the European Union has adopted a series of restrictive measures against natural persons and entities in the context of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The legality of the numerous acts imposing those measures, which have affected several hundred nationals and entities, gave rise to 75 actions lodged between 30 March and 31 December. It should be noted that those actions include the one brought on 8 March 2022 against the Council of the European Union by RT France, a company established in France whose business is the publication of specialised television channels, which sought to have the temporary ban on broadcasting content annulled. That case (T-125/22), in which the Court had to rule, inter alia, on respect for the rights of the defence and on the alleged infringement of freedom of expression and information, was disposed of by the Grand Chamber (composed of 15 judges) after an expedited procedure lasting 4 months and 19 days.
In the field of State aid, no less than 68 cases were brought (compared with 46 in 2021 and 42 in 2020), 50 of which were brought by natural and legal persons challenging the Commission’s decision on the aid scheme implemented by Portugal for the Madeira free zone.
In contrast to the increases noted in those two areas, a decline in the number of new actions is noted in the areas of intellectual property (270 compared with 308 in 2021 and 282 in 2020) and the civil service (66 compared with 81 in 2021 and 120 in 2020).
Finally, although the growth in the number of actions brought in the banking and financial field is not significant, it is noted that this increases by a few units each year. In 2022, 49 new actions were registered, 37 of which were brought by banks and financial institutions against the Single Resolution Board, an EU agency responsible for the management of the Single Resolution Fund and the preparation and implementation of the resolution of banks established in the Member States participating in the Single Resolution Mechanism.
And to highlight that the legislation on the protection of personal data is a very topical issue, attention is drawn to the action for annulment brought in 2022 by Meta Platforms Ireland against a decision of the European Data Protection Board (Case T-682/22). This is the second action brought against the decisions of that Board, the first being the one filed by WhatsApp Ireland in 2021 (Case T-709/21), which was dismissed as inadmissible by the Court in 2022.
2022: the year of departures and appointment of judges
With 858 cases closed, the Court settled fewer cases than in 2021 (951). That 9.8% decrease is largely cyclical. The composition of the Court has been significantly altered as a result of, on the one hand, new judges taking up their duties during the year and, on the other, the departure and arrival of judges in the context of the triennial partial renewal of the Court. Those movements have obviously had an impact on the organisation and operation of the Court and its Registry, which it is worth explaining.
Several judges took up their duties in the course of 2022 outside the triennial renewal and thus succeeded judges whose posts were declared vacant after their appointment to the Court of Justice in October 2021, (Mr Gratsias (Greece) appointed as Judge, and Mr Collins (Ireland) appointed as Advocate General), and a judge who died in 2021 (Judge Berke (Hungary)). Judge Kingston (Ireland) and Judge Dimitrakopoulos (Greece) were sworn in on 13 January 2022 and Judge Tóth (Hungary) on 6 July 2022.
Two new judges appointed pursuant to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2015/2422 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2015 amending Protocol No 3 on the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union (OJ 2015 L 341, p. 14) also took up their duties in January 2022 (Judge Kukovec (Slovenia)) and in July 2022 (Judge Ricziová (Slovakia)), thus enabling the Court to be composed of 54 judges for the first time since the end of the reform to provide the Court with two judges per Member State.
In the partial renewal of the Court in September 2022, three new judges took up their duties (Judge Tichy-Fisslberger (Austria), Judge Valasidis (Greece), and Judge Verschuur (Netherlands)).
The General Court therefore welcomed eight new judges in 2022
In addition, as is the case every three years, immediately after the partial renewal, the judges elected the President, Vice-President and Presidents of Chambers of the Court.
Those changes in the composition of the Court have made it necessary to adopt numerous internal organisational measures. Among those measures, it should be noted that the Court has decided to set up two Chambers of six judges, in addition to the eight Chambers of five judges, and to confirm the partial specialisation of the Chambers by maintaining the rule whereby, on the one hand, four Chambers deal with civil service cases and six Chambers deal with intellectual property cases, and, on the other hand, the other cases are distributed among all the Chambers. In addition, the number of three-judge formations has been increased to 68, plus the 10 five-judge formations, as well as the Grand Chamber of 15 judges and, in contrast, the single-judge formation. The administration of that organisation of the Court composed of 54 judges requires rigour and precision.
The implementation of measures to accompany the successive instances of judges taking office, which thus took place in January, July and September, each time required the adoption of new decisions by the Court (on the composition of the Grand Chamber, the criteria for the assignment of cases to Chambers, the method of designating a Judge to replace a Judge who is prevented from acting, the formation of Chambers and assignment of Judges to Chambers), which have been published in the Official Journal of the European Union and are accessible under the heading ‘Procedure’ of the General Court.
The Registry has been very involved in welcoming new judges and in designing and implementing the rules for the organisation of the Court’s work. In that respect, it is important to emphasise that the taking up of duties by new judges and the new assignment of judges to Chambers justify the allocation and reallocation of a large number of cases. The implementation and service of allocations and reallocations, which are the responsibility of the Registry, concerned 938 cases.
Some key figures
It is noted that:
The number of hearings is, by one unit, identical to that of 2021 (241 hearings, compared with 240 in 2021 and 227 in 2020), for 303 cases pleaded (290 in 2021 and 335 in 2020) (that difference between the number of hearings and the number of cases pleaded is explained by the fact that only one hearing is organised in the cases that have been joined). It should be noted that the hearing in Google and Alphabet v Commission (Google AdSense for Search) (Case T-334/19), which took place from 2 to 4 May 2022, justified, like several others, the adoption of coordinated measures by the Registry in order to ensure that it ran smoothly.
The proportion of hearings with videoconferencing, which had almost doubled in absolute terms between 2020 and 2021 (from 38 to 72), fell significantly: 4.6% of hearings (i.e. 11 hearings out of 241) were conducted using that system, compared with 30% in 2020 (72 hearings out of 240). That development is logical. It should be recalled that the use of videoconferencing, which was made possible starting in 2020, was conditional on the party, whether a main party or intervener, being unable to travel to Luxembourg because of the health crisis linked to the COVID‑19 pandemic and conditional on that party’s agreement to use that arrangement. It was also made conditional on compliance with certain technical requirements intended to ensure that oral proceedings could be conducted in accordance with the principle of a fair hearing, which consisted in checking, prior to the hearing, the quality of the secure transmission and that there were no problems related to simultaneous interpretation.
However, due to the end of the pandemic, the situation in 2022 was not the same as in 2021.
For the future, it will be interesting to follow the development of the situation after the new provision of the Rules of Procedure, proposed by the General Court and accepted by the Council of the European Union, enters into force. The rules governing the use of videoconferencing, laid down in a new Article 107a of the Rules of Procedure, specify, inter alia, the legal conditions under which it may be used and the competence to rule on any applications, while providing that the technical conditions are to be found in the Practice Rules for the Implementation of the Rules of Procedure of the General Court.
In order to give concrete expression to the institution's policy of accessibility for persons with disabilities, it is emphasised that, for the first time in the history of the institution, the conditions were met to enable a hearing-impaired person to attend a hearing before the Court.
The average duration of proceedings is very satisfactory. It is 16.2 months for cases closed by judgment or by order (compared with 17.3 months in 2021 and 15.4 months in 2020) and is 20.4 months where only cases closed by judgment are taken into account, ranging between the average duration of 13.4 months for intellectual property cases and 43.7 months for substantial and complex competition law cases (including Intel Corporation v Commission (T-286/09 RENV), Qualcomm v Commission (Qualcomm – Exclusivity payments (T-235/18), Google and Alphabet v Commission (Google Android) (T-604/18), and 13 cases relating to agreements and concerted practices on a number of elements of prices of airfreight services.
As regards cases settled by order, the average duration of proceedings of 8.9 months is the shortest ever recorded.
As mentioned above, there were 1 474 cases pending before the Court on 31 December 2022 (46 more than on 31 December 2021, but 23 fewer than at the end of 2020). Of those cases, 6.5% and 20.3% were civil service and intellectual property cases respectively. Almost 27% of pending cases were therefore in areas where the Court has decided to specialise Chambers.
The above statistical data do not take into account either applications for interim measures which fall within the jurisdiction of the President of the General Court (or the Vice-President replacing him if he is prevented from acting), or applications for expedited proceedings which fall within the jurisdiction of the Chamber to which the case is assigned. This presentation would therefore be incomplete without a special point on those urgent proceedings for which the Registry must show immediate responsiveness both in processing the documents that have been filed and in implementing the decisions taken by the President or by the Court.
The number of applications for interim relief decreased by 22% in 2022 compared with 2021 (37 (9 of which were in the area of restrictive measures) compared with 45), as did the number of closed interim relief proceedings (37 compared with 45).
The number of applications for an expedited procedure was 20 (compared with 38 in 2021 and 22 in 2020), 13 of which related to cases challenging the legality of restrictive measures adopted by the European Union in the context of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Only one of those applications was granted in the context of an application for annulment of a Commission decision concerning the recovery of sums unduly paid. For its part, the Court made use, on five occasions, of the possibility offered by Article 151 of the Rules of Procedure of allowing the expedited procedure of its own motion (which includes the RT France v Council case).
Insights into the work of the Registry of the General Court
Finally, there must be a special focus on the very high level of activity of the Court Registry during 2022. In addition to the involvement of the Registrar and his office in the administration of the Court, the changes to the Rules of Procedure and the ongoing judicial and institutional projects, all the teams in this department, consisting of 71 officials and agents, have done their part to support the Court in achieving its objectives. The Registry has thus been very much involved in the proactive case management that the Court has sought and supported.
Several thresholds were exceeded for the first time:
The Registry also provided its services at 352 Chamber conferences (meetings during which the judges discuss cases and adopt measures to prepare the cases to be heard) (338 in 2021 and 325 in 2020) and at 241 hearings.
Finally, the Registry was once again able to derive the greatest benefit from the e-Curia application, the use of which was made compulsory on 1 December 2018, subject to a few exceptions. Thus, 94% of documents were filed electronically at the Court Registry in 2022, which represented a volume of almost one million pages (979 676 pages). Since 2018, a total of 4 588 664 pages of documents have been filed then processed by the Court Registry, which thus gives an idea of the volume of some of the cases submitted to the Court.
Those data do not reflect two important developments in 2022. The first was to strengthen security arrangements to ensure the protection of sensitive data within the Court and the institution. The second, which reflects the Court’s ongoing quest for modernity, is the use of qualified electronic signatures for its judgments, orders and minutes of hearings. The Registry has done its utmost to adapt the internal procedures and to try to obtain a system that meets the legal requirements and allows for permanent electronic archiving.
The General Court of the European Union and its Registry have therefore once again adapted to the reality of the circumstances in a way that best meets the legitimate expectations of litigants. The Court’s Rules of Procedure have continued to be adapted to allow for the efficient examination of cases whilst taking into account emerging requirements and new realities. Lastly, following on from the measures taken in previous years, efforts have continued to digitise the entire chain of the judicial process, from the filing of documents via the e-Curia application to the service of electronically signed decisions by the same method, thus contributing to the necessary modernisation of the public service of justice.
Statistics of judicial activity in a number of previous years can also be consulted on the Curia website in the ‘History' section.