Court of Justice of the European Union, judicial institution of the European Union (EU). Located in Luxembourg, it was founded in 1958 as the joint court for the three treaty organizations that were consolidated into the European Community (the predecessor of the EU) in 1967.
The institution now consists of three bodies. The Court of Justice is the direct descendant of the original joint court. It is now composed of 8 advocates general and 27 judges—one judge from each of the EU nations. All members of the court are appointed for renewable six-year terms by agreement among the EU nations. The court interprets EU treaties and legislation. Although it may attempt to reconcile differences between national and EU laws, ultimately its decisions overrule those of national courts; they have tended to expand the EU's domain. Increased litigation over the years led to the establishment of a lower court, the General Court (1988, formerly the Court of First Instance), and a specialized civil service tribunal (2004); appeals to the Court of Justice are tightly restricted.
International law cases involving nations outside the EU are heard by the World Court in The Hague; the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, is recognized by the members of the Council of Europe and hears cases relating to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Personal Freedoms.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.