Role of Advocates General at the CJEU

10-10-2019

The institution of the Advocate General was introduced into the Treaty of Rome under the influence of the French delegation during the preparation of the Treaty. The French were staunchly opposed to allowing individual judges to present dissenting or concurring opinions, and instead proposed this be done by an Advocate General, a figure modelled on the French commissaire du gouvernement, who offers legal advice to the Conseil d'État on the cases being tried. Initially, there were two Advocates General – one French and one German. Over time, this number increased, and a number of Advocates General posts were permanently assigned to the larger Member States, whilst the remaining ones were 'rotated' among the smaller countries. Today, there are 11 Advocates General, six of these posts are permanently assigned to the larger Member States. Advocates General are Members of the Court of Justice of the EU, and are appointed under the same procedure as judges. They enjoy the same privileges as judges (immunity), and cannot be removed from office before the end of their six-year term of office. They may be re-elected. Unlike judges, however, they only have an advisory role and do not take part in the decision-making on cases. As a matter of principle, the opinion of an Advocate General is sought in every case tried by the Court of Justice (CJ), unless the latter decides that there is no new point of law. This happens in roughly 30 % of the cases each year. Even though the General Court (GC) has the power to appoint ad hoc Advocates General, it does not now apply this in practice. In contrast to CJ judges, whose opinions are written in a formal and terse language that uses standard phrases and wording often borrowed from earlier judgments, the Advocates General can choose their own style. Again, unlike CJ judges, they also consider the interpretive alternatives and various options of deciding on a case, before proposing their own solution. In the absence of dissenting opinions filed by the CJ judges, the opinions of the Advocates General therefore play an important role and are referred to in later cases. The CJ is not bound by these opinions; nonetheless, according to empirical research, in the case of an action for annulment of an EU act, the CJ is 67 % more likely to annul it if doing so was advised by an Advocate General. This Briefing is one in a series aimed at explaining the activities of the CJEU.

The institution of the Advocate General was introduced into the Treaty of Rome under the influence of the French delegation during the preparation of the Treaty. The French were staunchly opposed to allowing individual judges to present dissenting or concurring opinions, and instead proposed this be done by an Advocate General, a figure modelled on the French commissaire du gouvernement, who offers legal advice to the Conseil d'État on the cases being tried. Initially, there were two Advocates General – one French and one German. Over time, this number increased, and a number of Advocates General posts were permanently assigned to the larger Member States, whilst the remaining ones were 'rotated' among the smaller countries. Today, there are 11 Advocates General, six of these posts are permanently assigned to the larger Member States. Advocates General are Members of the Court of Justice of the EU, and are appointed under the same procedure as judges. They enjoy the same privileges as judges (immunity), and cannot be removed from office before the end of their six-year term of office. They may be re-elected. Unlike judges, however, they only have an advisory role and do not take part in the decision-making on cases. As a matter of principle, the opinion of an Advocate General is sought in every case tried by the Court of Justice (CJ), unless the latter decides that there is no new point of law. This happens in roughly 30 % of the cases each year. Even though the General Court (GC) has the power to appoint ad hoc Advocates General, it does not now apply this in practice. In contrast to CJ judges, whose opinions are written in a formal and terse language that uses standard phrases and wording often borrowed from earlier judgments, the Advocates General can choose their own style. Again, unlike CJ judges, they also consider the interpretive alternatives and various options of deciding on a case, before proposing their own solution. In the absence of dissenting opinions filed by the CJ judges, the opinions of the Advocates General therefore play an important role and are referred to in later cases. The CJ is not bound by these opinions; nonetheless, according to empirical research, in the case of an action for annulment of an EU act, the CJ is 67 % more likely to annul it if doing so was advised by an Advocate General. This Briefing is one in a series aimed at explaining the activities of the CJEU.