Thursday 21 June 2012

New UK Judge appointed to the Court of Justice of the EU

Christopher Vajda QC (currently of Monckton Chambers) has been appointed as the UK Judge to the Court of Justice of the European Union.  He will succeed Sir Konrad Schiemann who has been the UK's judge there since 2004.

Read the announcement by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

In the public mind there is often confusion between the Court of Justice of the European Union  (based at Luxembourg) and the European Court of Human Rights (based at Strasbourg).

See also: Court of Justice of the European Union

Article 253 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union deals with appointment of judges to the Court of Justice of the EU.  The judges are  chosen from persons whose independence is beyond doubt and who possess the qualifications required for appointment to the highest judicial offices in their respective countries or who are jurisconsults of recognised competence.  They are appointed by common accord of the governments of the Member States for a term of six years, after consultation of the panel provided for in
Article 255.  This panel gives an opinion on candidates' suitability to perform the duties of Judge.

The court of justice has several important functions including deciding "preliminary references" made from national courts under Article 267 of the TFEU.  Preliminary references enable the court to give the national court a ruling on the interpretation of the treaties or on the validity and interpretation of acts of the institutions, bodies, offices or agencies of the Union.

A recent example of a reference is that in FA(Iraq) v Home Secretary [2011] UKSC 22 where the UK Supreme Court referred points to the Court of Justice of the EU.   The case concerned the relationship between two rights which enable non-nationals to remain in the United Kingdom: humanitarian protection, which derives from European law, and asylum, which derives from a combination of domestic law, European law, and international law. The issue in the appeal is whether, because a right of appeal exists against a refusal of an asylum application, European law requires that a right of appeal also be available against a refusal of an application for humanitarian protection.

The purpose of references is so that the Court of Justice can lay down an interpretation which will then apply throughout the European Union.


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