The Court of Justice is based in Luxembourg. It is the judicial authority of the European Union (EU). In this role it takes binding decisions on the interpretation and application of EU law. To reduce its workload, it is assisted by the General Court.
Each Member State sends one judge to the Court of Justice. Currently, eleven Advocates General support the Judges in their work. The national governments appoint the members of the Court of Justice for a period of six years. To become a member, a person's independence must be fully guaranteed and he or she must possess the qualifications required for appointment to the highest judicial offices.
There are different kinds of proceedings before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The most common ones are preliminary rulings and infringement procedures:
- Preliminary rulings: National courts may refer questions regarding the interpretation of EU law to the CJEU. If this happens, the national proceedings are suspended until the CJEU reaches its decision. Each Member State has the possibility of submitting a written observation on the questions put to the CJEU, and during the oral proceedings it may present its interpretation of the law. After the oral stage, the advocate general presents his or her opinion (conclusions) on the case. However, this opinion is not binding for the CJEU. The CJEU then pronounces its judgment. The CJEU only rules on the questions which the national court submitted and not on the national legal dispute. When ruling on the national case pending before it, the national court is bound by the CJEU's interpretation.
- Infringement procedures: The European Commission and the Member States may bring a case to court, when they are of the opinion that one of the Member of States is violating a EU law and does not terminate the failure during the preliminary procedure conducted by the European Commission. During the preliminary procedure, the Member State challenged may comment on the case. If the CJEU comes to the conclusion that the Member State is infringing EU law, it is obliged in a first judgement to stop the infringement. If the Member State does not comply with this obligation, the case can be submitted to the CJEU again for a second decision on the imposition of financial sanctions against the Member State. If a Member State failed to notify the Commission of the transposition of a directive, the CJEU declares the infringement and imposes financial sanctions in a single judgment.