by Alison Shea
Last summer I wrote a short post for this blog detailing the changes to official reporting of cases from the Court of Justice of the European Union, and asked the question of how librarians would deal with this while waiting for the 20th edition of the Bluebook (BB) to be published.
Now that we have received our shiny new copies of the 20th edition, it would appear that there have been no changes to rule 21.5.2(a) that would indicate to the reader that the Reports of cases before the Court of Justice and the General Court, aka the ECR, has ceased publication in print as of January 1, 2012. Not only is the wording of this rule almost verbatim to what appeared in the 19th edition, but “Reports of cases before the Court of Justice” in T3.3 lists the coverage as 1973-date [n.b. not to nitpick even further, but this is technically incorrect, as cases decided before the English-language countries joined the EU in 1973 were translated into English and printed in special retrospective editions of the English-language ECR]; with the recent changes, the most correct coverage date range should instead read 1973-2011. Although the Court’s website indicates that the “Reports of Cases” are now published exclusively online, for BB purposes these Reports should not be cited in a similar fashion, as they obviously lack both a volume number (I for Court of Justice cases, II for General Court cases) and consecutive pagination.
The lack of direct guidance on this format change is disappointing because although rule 21.5.2(a) includes a secondary preference for citing to an electronic source “if an official reporter is not available in print”, for journal students and other users who are unaware that the ECR is simply no longer published, I can imagine that much time will be wasted searching for an ECR cite first instead of realizing that anything decided 2012-date will not have an ECR cite.
Going further, I was also disappointed to see that in this secondary preference paragraph, the BB editors have added new guidance for finding ECJ cases online outside of Curia: “for cases before June, 1997: http://old.eur-lex.europa.eu”. This is unhelpful on a number of counts, most notably because it implies that cases decided before June 1997 cannot be located and retrieved on Curia (incorrect) and that to find cases before June 1997 one would have to use the “old” version of Eur-lex (also incorrect), which is no longer being updated and currently exists for archival purposes only. One theory as to why the BB editors would direct users to an archival site is that on the old Eur-lex one was able to go to the “Access by year” feature at the bottom of the Case-law page and select any year from 1954-onwards. In the “new” Eur-lex, under “Direct access to case law”, one can only select back until 1973. This again is not a correct assumption of coverage, as case law going back to the beginning can be retrieved via full text search, document number or CELEX number in the “new” Eur-lex.
So what is to be done? Even without any guidance in the BB, the sun will still rise in the East and law students will still come to ask for help at the reference desk. My simple solution will be to instruct law review editors and other users to cite the ECR for judgments issued from 1954-2011, and to use the electronic version via Curia for everything 2012-date. Also, let me make a small plug here for the Fordham International Law Journal’s EU Citation Manual which, although they have only made the 2010-11 version publicly available and thus this version does not address the ECR issue, goes into far greater detail on standardizing citations for EU documentation than the BB does and can be quite useful to students writing an EU-source heavy note. The further question of whether to adopt the European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) is still unresolved, but so long as the BB is fine with citations to the URL of Curia, the issue of whether to include the ECLI can wait for another day!