English Law/European Union/Case guide

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European Union Law

This short guide is intended to help you understand the structure of EU law cases. Unlike the judgments of English courts, the judgments in EU cases have just a majority decision, often a lot shorter than English cases. Thus there is no indication of dissenting opinions. The way that EU cases are structured should make it easier to dissect and examine the cases. The best way to find judgments in EU cases is at Curia.Europa.eu, with case numbers e.g. C-408/01. Please note that cases which involve similar facts are likely to be merged for the purposes of judgment. Examples of such "joined cases include C-585/08 and C-144/09.

Learning note

After you have read this guide, have a look at the case studies to see how much you have understood.

Legal framework

This explains the relevant law for the issues contained in the case, with references to international treaties (which the EU might be party to), European treaties, secondary legislation and national law.

Case facts

This is a crucial section which explains why the case was begun, the parties involved in the case, and what type of legal process has occurred before the case e.g. preliminary enforcement action by the European Commission.


This section comprises the legal questions that the national court is asking the Court of Justice to provide answers to. The questions are formatted with numbers to clarify each question.


In this section the Court of Justice provides detailed answers to the questions being asked of it, often laying them out under separate subheadings. On occasion the Court may decide to merge answers or even to not answer a question (often because of similarity of the facts).

Operative part (the answers)

The most crucial section is where the Court gives clear, short answers to the questions of the case. This is essentially a summary of the reasoning given above but see below.


In order to comprehend the summary section, it is necessary to have read the facts and questions. It is only more recent judgments that include a summary of the most important parts of the reasoning, with the reference to specific paragraphs,

Numbered paragraphs

More recent judgments use numbered paragraphs although this has not always been the practice. This assists case citations where an article might need to point to the exact paragraph to highlight specific legal points. It is somewhat similar to the use of page numbers to reference journal articles.


Costs are a minor point as far as understanding EU law is concerned.