(CN) – As in 2016, Luxembourg-based officials reported Friday, more than 1,600 cases were brought last year before the European Court of Justice and the General Court of the EU.
Of the 1,656 cases brought, moreover, the number of cases closed in 2017 by the two courts rang in at 1,594.
In a statement on the statistics, the Court of Justice noted that the 739 cases it handled in 2017 set a new record, eclipsing the 713 cases registered in 2015.
Of the total, 533 cases involved requests by the courts of member states for a preliminary ruling. The Court of Justice noted that this marked a 13 percent increase on the previous record set in 2016, and in turn can be attributed to the 43 similar cases that sought an interpretation of the regulation concerning compensation to air passengers.
Also on the rise in 2017 was the number of actions for failure by a member state to fulfill obligations: 41 in 2017, compared with 31 in 2016.
But the 141 appeals lodged before the court last year was lower than in the two previous years. In 2015, the number was 206, and it was 168 in 2016.
The Court of Justice completed 699 cases in 2017, it noted, on par with the 704 completed a year earlier.
Requests for a preliminary ruling were resolved at average duration of 15.7 months, a span that the Court of Justice called “noteworthy in the light of the complexity of some of the legislation recently referred to the court for interpretation.”
In 2016, the average duration of 15 months was the lowest average duration recorded in the court’s history, the statement also notes.
Appeals meanwhile ate up more of the court’s time, taking an average of 17.1 months last year compared with 12.9 months in 2016.
The court attributed this increase to “the completion over the past year of complex competition law cases, of which 14 were appeal proceedings in a very large cartel case concerning bathroom fittings and fixtures manufacturers.”
At the General Court, on the other hand, the duration of proceedings reduced “quite considerably” from the year before, according to the statement.
Cases decided by judgment or order had an average span of 16.3 months, which was 13 percent shorter than in 2016.
The records also show that this trend has been ongoing for five years, a 40 percent reduction in duration since 2013.
While 917 cases were brought before the General Court in 2017, 895 were closed. That’s 140 more cases closed than in 2016, an increase of 18.5 percent.
The Court of Justice called this productivity significant since about 100 of the cases lodged involved related issues of banking and finance.
A footnote of the statement notes that the 917-895 totals “do not take account of the 47 cases brought and the 53 cases closed before a judge hearing an application for interim measures.”
What the statistics show, according to the statement, is recovery from the “inevitable dip experienced by the General Court in the context of its triennial renewal and its internal reorganization resulting from the reform.”
“2017 may be regarded as the first full year which put the new organisation of the General Court to the test,” according to the statement. “Its new organization was designed to enable it better to deliver its mandate by simultaneously pursuing a number of ambitious objectives: speed, quality, coherence and, in short, authority of its case-law. Given the challenge posed by the integration of a considerable number of new judges, this first year of actual implementation of the reform can be deemed to have been highly satisfactory.”
The General Court also saw 84 cases referred to an extended five-judge chamber, up from 29 in 2016. This, according to the statement, “is illustrative of one of the methods of organization and operation chosen by the General Court to pursue its objective — which it set itself in the context of the implementation of the reform — of maintaining its quality standards.”
While about 10 percent of cases overall were referred to an extended five-judge chamber in 2017, the average number of such references made from 2010 to 2015, “the period preceding the reform of the judicial structure of the EU, was in the region of 1 percent, according to the statement.
The court expects productivity to grow further in 2018 as it “reach[es] its new cruising speed.”