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European Union Law

EU Court of Justice vs European Court of Human Rights

Do not confuse the European Court of Justice with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The ECtHR is not a court of the EU. It was created within the framework of the Council of Europe by the European Convention on Human Rights. However, case law developed by the European Court of Human Rights can have an important influence on EU law, since the fundamental rights guaranteed in the European Convention also constitute general principles of EU law.

European Court of Justice

European Court of Justice

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European Union Court System

The courts of the European Union are:

  • The European Court of Justice (ECJ), which interprets EU law to make sure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries
  • The General Court (known as the Court of First Instance until 2009) deals with cases brought by private individuals, companies and some organisations, and cases relating to competition law.
  • Specialised courts can be set up for specific areas. They can hear and determine cases at first instance, with the possibility of an appeal to the General Court.
  • For disputes between the EU and its civil servants a Civil Service Tribunal has been established.

These EU courts are based in Luxembourg. They ensure that the interpretation and application of EU law is observed. However, the application of EU law is not only the task of the EU courts: the courts and tribunals of the Member States also have to apply EU law.

Finding EU Cases & Domestic Cases applying EU Law


The official case law database of the European Union is CURIA (open access) - contains full-text decisions from all three courts from 1997, and indexes all judgments since the inception of the European Court of Justice in 1953. The cases on CURIA are unreported, but the database is completely up to date, so it is the best place to find recent decisions.

The authorised reported cases are available in full text from the first report in 1954 on HeinOnline (UniMelb staff & student access). The reports are listed alphabetically in the HEIN Foreign & International Law Resources Database and comprise:

  • Reports of Cases before the Court 1954-1989
  • Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice and the General Court, Section I: Court of Justice 1990+ (formerly called Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance)
  • Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice and the General Court, Section II: General Court 1993+ (formerly called Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice)
  • European Court Reports. Reports of European Community Staff Cases: ECR-SC 1994-2009

Eur-Lex (open access) includes:

Case Law from the European Court of Justice - including: 

  1. Judgments and orders including:
    • cases brought by EU institutions, Member States, corporate bodies or individuals against an EU institution or the European Central Bank
    • cases brought against EU Member States for failing to fulfil their obligations under the EU treaties
    • national courts' requests for preliminary rulings concerning the validity or interpretation of EU law
    • disputes between the EU and its staff
  2. Opinions and views of Advocates General
  3. Opinions of the Court on draft agreements between the EU and non-EU countries or international organisations.


N-Lex on Eur-Lex- a national case law database and the national implementation measures database, allowing research into how member states have implemented European law.

The European e-Justice Portal provides information on national member state law. It includes caselaw and information on the judicial systems of the EU and member states. It links to EUmember state and international case law.