Changes in ECJ Case Publishing and Citation Methods

By Alison Shea

Many of us have a nice splash of color in our stacks thanks to the purple European Union case law reporters, known to our students as the ECR but to our catalogs as “Reports of cases before the Court of Justice and the General Court…” However, unbeknownst (or unremembered) to many, as of April 2014 this print reporter has ceased publication – see here, here, and here for more information.  The last volumes issued were 2011 v.12C for Series I and 2011 v.11/12 for Series II.

One thing we might consider doing to help alert users to this change is to ask our catalogers to include some type of link to the electronic databases – either Curia or Eur-Lex – from our current ECR records, similar to what IALS in London has done.  But what does this mean for FCIL reference services, and especially for all of the journal students who are going to come asking for citation help once school is back in session?  It’s hard to tell.

Bluebook (19th edition) Rule 21.5.2 states that European Union case law citations should include a reference to the official reporter, which is defined in 21.5.2(a) as the ECR.  Subsection (a) does go on to state that if an official report is not available in print, one should cite to the Curia website, an electronic database, or a private service.  So, one might assume that from 2012 onwards we should instruct students to provide a citation to the HTML version of the case (which are considered official per the court’s own website) using rule 18.1.

But there’s a twist!  In announcing the cessation of the ECR in print, the Court also announced a new citation method for ECJ cases.  As stated on the Curia website:

I. The context of the alteration 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.  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′. 

It is broken down as follows:

  • ‘EU’ indicates that it is a decision delivered by an EU Court or Tribunal (if the decision were one of a national court, the code corresponding to the relevant Member State would appear in the place of ‘EU’);
  • ‘C’ indicates that this decision was delivered by the Court of Justice. If the decision were delivered by the General Court or by the Civil Service Tribunal, the indicator would be ‘T’ or ‘F’ respectively;
  • ‘2005′ indicates that the decision was delivered during 2005;
  • ‘446′ indicates that it is the 446th ECLI attributed in respect of that year.

It is interesting to examine some of the cases that are being published online using this new method – see, e.g. Minister Finansów v Kraft Foods Polska SA, available at: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:62010CJ0588&rid=1.  It “feels” similar to what the ECR looked like in PDF, but again, it is important to note that it is not consecutively paginated as part of an official reporter and instead carries the new ECLI citation.

So the big question is…how do we advise our students to cite ECJ cases until the new Bluebook comes out?  Also, how can we go about ensuring the editors of the Bluebook are aware of this change?  Please leave your comments/thoughts/questions below, and do be sure to stop by the European Law Interest Group Meeting in San Antonio, to be held on Sunday, July 13, 2014 at 7:00 AM in Marriott Rivercenter-Salon C (as part of the FCIL-SIS Subject Groups meetings) to continue the discussion there!

One response to “Changes in ECJ Case Publishing and Citation Methods

  1. Pingback: Follow Up: Changes to EU Case Publishing Not Included in 20th Edition of Bluebook | DipLawMatic Dialogues

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