Covid-19 – Information - Parties before the Court of Justice

Change to judicial activities

[27/01/2021]

Owing to the current health crisis, the Court of Justice has been obliged, since March 2020, to make changes to its working arrangements. Those changes concern the conduct of the written phase of proceedings – and, in particular, the extension of certain time limits for the filing of parties’ statements or observations – as well as the conduct of the oral phase of proceedings.

The aim of this communication is to summarise all of those measures for the parties and their representatives. As these measures remain subject to frequent modifications depending on how the health crisis evolves, parties and their representatives are asked to consult this website regularly.

Procedural time limits

Procedural time limits continue to run despite the health crisis and parties are required to comply with those time limits, without prejudice to the possible application of the second paragraph of Article 45 of the Protocol on the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union (‘the Statute’).

In order to take into account the particular circumstances of the present time and in order to allow the interested parties referred to in Article 23 of the Statute to have available to them, in those circumstances, an amount of time that is sufficient for the submission of their observations in requests for preliminary rulings referred to the Court of Justice, the time limit for submitting written observations in requests for preliminary rulings is extended by one month. That additional month – which does not concern preliminary references that are subject to the accelerated procedure or the urgent procedure – is to be added to the time limit of two months and ten days that flows from the combined application of Article 23 of the Statute and Article 51 of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice.

Hearings

All necessary measures are being taken to ensure that hearings take place under optimal conditions from both a logistical and sanitary perspective, but the holding and conduct of hearings evidently remain dependent on the decisions taken by the national authorities in order to combat transmission of the virus. If a party is entirely unable to travel to Luxembourg, they may, under certain conditions, be permitted to attend a hearing by videoconference. Furthermore, it cannot be ruled out that some hearings may have to be replaced with questions to the parties for a written response owing to the difficulties caused by Covid-19.

In order to ensure the efficient conduct of hearings, particularly from a linguistic perspective, parties’ representatives are asked to inform the registry as soon as possible whether they will be attending a hearing, or whether they are prevented from attending.

Communication with the parties - Importance of the e-Curia application

In order to facilitate communication with the parties in this period of crisis, the courts of the Member States and parties’ representatives who do not yet have an e-Curia account are strongly encouraged to become familiar with e-Curia, which is a secure application and allows procedural documents to be filed and served electronically in cases brought before the Court. All details as to the application’s functions and the method for opening an account can be found here: e-Curia.

Due to the circumstances, application forms for opening accounts sent to the registry by email will be accepted, exceptionally, provided that they are accompanied by the necessary supporting documents, which are duly signed and scanned.

Sanitary measures adopted in order to ensure the efficient conduct of hearings (applicable to the Court of Justice and the General Court)

Following the decisions taken by the Court of Justice and the General Court gradually to resume hearings with effect from 25 May 2020, the strictest sanitary measures have been adopted, in accordance with the laws adopted by the Luxembourgish authorities, in order to allow hearings to proceed under the best possible conditions.

Those measures concern both (I) access to the institution’s buildings and the rules that must be complied with while moving around within them, and (II) the arrangements for the hearing itself, which have been adapted in response to the current exceptional circumstances.

I. Access to the institution’s buildings and the essential rules of conduct within them

Access by parties’ representatives to the institution’s buildings is exclusively through the entrance to the Erasmus building (rue du fort Niedergrünewald, L-2925 Luxembourg).

The reception procedure for parties’ representatives is similar to the usual procedure, subject to a temperature check, which is carried out at a distance (persons with a temperature higher than 37.5°C are not permitted to enter the buildings).

If parties’ representatives do not possess appropriate masks upon arrival at the institution’s buildings, a mask will be provided by the security service. The mask must be worn at all times while moving around the institution’s buildings and wherever it is not possible to maintain a distance of two meters between two individuals.

In the same way as the institution’s staff, parties’ representatives are asked to read carefully the information given on notice boards and to observe strictly the instructions given. Those notices are repeated, where appropriate, by relevant markings on the floor and walls.

Finally, it should be noted that a limited restaurant service is provided.

II. Arrangements for hearings

In order to provide a high level of sanitary protection, tables, microphones and earphones are disinfected after each hearing.

The institution will not be making gowns available for use by parties’ representatives. Agents and lawyers are therefore asked to bring their own gown for use at hearings but, if that is not possible, the Court of Justice and the General Court will, by way of derogation from the applicable rules, allow representatives to plead without a gown.

Contrary to the usual practice, the members of the formation of the Court hearing the case will not be meeting with parties’ representatives before the start of hearings. The registrar for the hearing and the court usher will check, before the start of the hearing, that the parties’ representatives are present.

The necessary arrangements have also been made in order to ensure compliance with physical distancing rules within each hearing room. The parties’ representatives will be positioned in such a way as to maintain a distance of two meters between each person in the room.

A mask must be worn in the hearing room. Parties’ representatives are to make their oral submissions from the place that will have been indicated to them. In cases where one microphone must be used by several people, it will be cleaned and disinfected after each use.

Those representatives who wish to provide a text or written outline of their oral submissions for the benefit of the interpretation services are asked to send them, where possible, before midday (local time of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg) on the working day prior to the day of the hearing, to the following address: Interpretation@curia.europa.eu.