Top EU Court Embraces Anonymity for Litigants

(CN) – The European Court of Justice said Friday it no longer plans to identify people who are the subject of future preliminary rulings.

Citing the recent enforcement of the new General Data Protection Regulation, the Luxembourg-based court said it has decided effective July 1 to mirror the activity of its member states.

“Against a background marked by the proliferation of means of searching for and of disseminating information,” the court said Friday, local governments have been increasing personal-data protections for their citizens.

The Court of Justice said its own precedent bears this out, pointing to recent decisions “on questions such as the right to be delisted on search engines, the validity of the commission decision finding that the United States provide an adequate level of protection for transferred personal data, the validity of the Passenger Name Record data agreement between the European Union and Canada, the liability of administrators of Facebook fan pages or the lawfulness of the retention of personal data by providers of electronic communications services.”

Going forward, in all requests for preliminary rulings brought after July 1, 2018, the court said it will “replace, in all its public documents, the name of natural persons involved in the case by initials.”

“Similarly, any additional element likely to permit identification of the persons concerned will be removed,” the announcement continues.

The court emphasized it retains the right to derogate from this plan “in the event of an express request from a party or if the particular circumstances of the case so justify.”

All publications made as part of the handling of the case will be affected. This includes the name of the case as well as notices to the Official Journal, opinions and judgments.

The court already has a plan on how to “facilitate the citation and identification of anonymized cases.”

“When the case is between only natural persons, the case name will correspond to two initials representing the first name and surname of the applicant, but different from the true name and surname of that party,” the court said.

But “the possible combinations of letters are not infinite,” the court recognized, so it said it can bracket in a distinctive element when a number of cases bear the same initials.

“That additional element could refer to the name of a legal person which, without being a party to the case, is referred to or affected by the case or to the subject-matter or to what is at stake in the dispute,” the court said.

This is the same way the court opted just this past week to decide the case of transgender pensioner in the United Kingdom.

“When the parties to the case include both natural and legal persons, the name of the case will correspond to the name of one of the legal persons,” the court added. “However, where that legal person is a public authority which is often a party before the Court of Justice (for example, ‘finance minister’), a distinctive element will also be added to the case name.”

There is no plan to alter how the court handles hearings or other proceedings that do not involve publications.

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