A visit to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg

The European Court in Luxembourg enjoys a level of support and quality of facilities that domestic courts, with the possible exception of the UK Supreme Court, can only envy. Before issuing its multi-lingual judgments, the judges have the benefit, not only of a superb modern library, but also the intensively researched opinion of an Advocate General, the nature of whose role is perhaps not as well known as it could be.

Flags and towers

While attending the International Association of Law Libraries 37th annual course in Luxembourg earlier this month, ICLR delegates were taken on a tour of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and heard a presentation about the work of an Advocate General to the court.

The Library

Complaints about the lavish funding of EU institutions while domestic economies languish under austerity might not be unfair, either. At any rate, there was no sign here of any of the cost cutting that has crippled the justice system back home. The corridors are lined with art and sculpture, the canteen and other staff facilities seem well provided for, and what we saw of the library was enough to indicate that few researchers would be stuck for published textual sources in any of the EU member languages.

The courtroom

The main court room is a vast double-height space, over which hangs a tent-like chain-metal canopy of gold. (It’s not just the towers outside — the amount of gold in the décor of this place was enough to prompt several remarks about its Trump-like aesthetic.)

The work of the Advocate General

The main function of an Advocate General is to provide the court with a fully researched and considered opinion on a substantive case reference. The opinion is published in advance of the judgment, with its own citation, and in most cases the court accepts the AG’s recommendations as to the decision in law. However, in a minority of cases the court, while relying on the AG’s researches as to the relevant law and the facts, reaches a different decision on a point in issue.

Neither an advocate nor a general

A word about the title, Advocate General. The AG is not an advocate, the role is essentially a judicial one. Nor is she a general, notwithstanding the absent minded question of one military gent, when told of her rank, ‘Oh really, which regiment?’ Perhaps the old buffer thought it was a court-martial role.

The ICLR publishes The Law Reports, The Weekly Law Reports and other specialist titles. Set up by members of the judiciary and legal profession in 1865.