Tending the bar: Case allocations in the Court of Justice of the European Union

PluriCourts Lunch Seminar with Silje Hermansen.

To what extent does the president of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) make strategic use of his members? Despite its status as the world's most powerful court, recent scholarship has identified substantial self-restraint when the Court receives signals from member states. To date, studies in the separation-of-powers tradition have considered court behavior at the organizational level. In contrast, this paper focuses on the effect of external strategic considerations on allocation of influence within the Court.

Contrary to many other international courts, influence in the CJEU is individualized and distributed at the discretion of its leadership. This paper argues that the president seeks to enhance the Court's position by strategic use of experienced members and emphasis of individual independence. Yet, case allocations remain sensitive to the broader (political) context.

To support its arguments, the paper draws on original data including allocations in 6263 preliminary reference cases brought before the CJEU (1958-2015). The results speak to the key role of internal organization for judicial independence as well as the interdependence between state-signatories and the court's leadership.


PluriCourt Seminars are a forum for pluridisciplinary discussion of core issues relating to international courts and tribunals. PluriCourts scholars or invited speakers present new and ongoing research or comment on current questions. The seminars are open to everyone.

Published Feb. 8, 2019 1:52 PM - Last modified Feb. 8, 2019 1:55 PM