New ECJ judge appointed as court doubles in size
A new judge has been appointed to the second-highest court in the European Union after it was decided the court would double in size in a bid to alleviate its increasing workload.
The General Court of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg was due to gradually increase from 28 judges to 56 from February last year, giving each EU country two judges instead of one. But following the UK’s exit from the EU, the court will now have 54 judges as only EU member states can have a judge sitting at the court.
On Tuesday, a new judge from Slovenia entered office for a four-year term. Maja Brkan, who has previously worked as associate professor of EU law at the University of Maastricht and associate director of the Maastricht Centre for European Law, will replace Miro Prek, who left the court last year.
This is the latest appointment in the effort to fill the 54 seats, with only four seats now remaining empty – for Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and a second seat for Slovenia.
Overload of cases
The ECJ deals with cases between EU countries, citizens and institutions and almost two thirds of all cases are brought to the ECJ by national courts. The General Court is the court of first instance.
The court decided it needed to double in size due to an overload of cases brought before it. Part of the reason for the extra work was a string of new countries joining the EU. In 2004, 10 new countries became a member, the largest single expansion the bloc has even seen, and Romania and Bulgaria then joined in 2007, followed by Croatia in 2013.
As most of the cases brought to the ECJ come from national courts, having more countries on board led to a natural acceleration of legal references.
The amount of EU law has also gone up over recent years, which has led to national courts asking for more interpretations from the ECJ. Some areas of EU law, such as justice, freedom and home affairs used to be mostly outside the ECJ’s scope.
The court has described itself as being “overburdened” with work.
When the idea of doubling its size was first tabled, national governments could not agree on which member states would have an extra judge, so EU leaders decided that every country would get one each.