25th May 2019

EU court rebels denounce 'wasteful' hiring of new judges

  • Doubling the number of ECJ judges would prove costly and would disorganise the work of the court, critics say.

An informal hearing of European Court of Justice (ECJ) judges with MEPs on Tuesday (28 April) showed the backlog of cases is not as significant as feared, weakening the case for a controversial doubling of the number of judges.

The closed-door meeting in Strasbourg was organised by Portuguese Liberal MEP Antonio Marinho e Pinto in order to assess plans to increase the number of judges in the ECJ’s General Court, one of three chambers, from 28 to 56.

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Marinho e Pinto is working on reform of the ECJ, a legislative process which started four years ago.

The increase in judges, set to cost €23 million a year extra, was proposed by ECJ chief Vassilios Skouris on grounds of a higher workload.

But the step is opposed by ECJ judges, who say it is too expensive and would sink the court "into the morass of a more complex organisation".

The president of the General Court Marc Jaeger, the strongest opponent, presented the court judges’ position against the reform to MEPs on the legal affairs committee. Four other judges accompanied him.

ECJ president Skouris, who was expected to come, did not turn up. He had previously contested the parliament’s capacity to summon judges.

"Increasing, let alone doubling, the number of judges at the General Court is yesterday’s solution for yesterday’s problem," the four judges said in a written statement handed to the MEPs.

"The last thing the General Court needs is the creation of a Mexican army of new judges, supported by a reduced number of qualified personnel”.

The judges told MEPs that "progressive, reversible and more economical solutions" should be used to ensure a smooth treatment of thousands of cases addressed to the court.

They also contradicted the claim that the backlog of cases made the doubling necessary.

"As of the 23rd of April 2015, there are 1,311 cases pending before the General court," they said, adding that "512 cases of 2013 and 213 cases of 2014 have already been completed".

"There was a real problem with the backlog in 2010, but the improvement since then has been such that approximately 80 percent of that backlog has been liquidated and the balance is being reduced on a monthly basis," the four judges said.

"All documents and statements presented indicate very clearly that the problem of the backlog has largely disappeared," they added in a statement after the meeting.

"The legitimacy of doubling the judges then became extremely contestable and could easily become a very dangerous symbol of EU mismanagement of funds."

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