New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

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Forthcoming, Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law, Vol. 20 (2013)


This article examines the engagement by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights over the period since the Charter was made formally binding by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. A survey of the output of the Court during that time reveals a sharp rise in the number of cases in which a provision of the Charter was cited or argued before the Court. Further, the Court has engaged substantively with and given prominence to the Charter argument in a growing number of these cases. In other words, the incidence of human rights adjudication before the CJEU has been significantly augmented by the adoption of the Charter as a binding legal instrument. The article considers the implications for the Court of Justice of the growing demand for it to function in certain cases as a human rights adjudicator. More particularly, it questions whether the long-standing judicial style and approach of the Court – its self-referential, formulaic and often minimalist style of reasoning – is appropriate to this expanded role. The article argues that the nature and context of the increasing number of human rights claims being made before the Court call for greater openness on the part of the CJEU to the use of international and comparative law and to the possibility of third party interventions. Further, and particularly given the evident unwillingness of the CJEU to countenance the practice of separate concurring or dissenting opinions, the Court should, particularly in cases involving human rights claims, rethink its increasingly frequent practice of dispensing with the opinion of an Advocate General.

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