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The European Court of Justice and process-oriented review. Research Paper in Law, 01/2012

Lenaerts, Koen (2012) The European Court of Justice and process-oriented review. Research Paper in Law, 01/2012. UNSPECIFIED.

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    Structuralism is a theory of U.S. constitutional adjudication according to which courts should seek to improve the decision-making process of the political branches of government so as to render it more democratic.1 In words of John Hart Ely, courts should exercise their judicial-review powers as a ‘representation-reinforcing’ mechanism.2 Structuralism advocates that courts must eliminate the elements of the political decision-making process that are at odds with the structure set out by the authors of the U.S. Constitution. The advantage of this approach, U.S. scholars posit, lies in the fact that it does not require courts to second-guess the policy decisions adopted by the political branches of government. Instead, they limit themselves to enforcing the constitutional structure within which those decisions must be adopted. Of course, this theory of constitutional adjudication, like all theories, has its shortcomings. For example, detractors of structuralism argue that it is difficult, if not impossible, to draw the dividing line between ‘substantive’ and ‘structural’ matters.3 In particular, they claim that, when identifying the ‘structure’ set out by the authors of the U.S. Constitution, courts necessarily base their determinations not on purely structural principles, but on a set of substantive values, evaluating concepts such as democracy, liberty and equality. 4 Without claiming that structuralism should be embraced by the ECJ as the leading theory of judicial review, the purpose of my contribution is to explore how recent case-law reveals that the ECJ has also striven to develop guiding principles which aim to improve the way in which the political institutions of the EU adopt their decisions. In those cases, the ECJ decided not to second-guess the appropriateness of the policy choices made by the EU legislator. Instead, it preferred to examine whether, in reaching an outcome, the EU political institutions had followed the procedural steps mandated by the authors of the Treaties. Stated simply, I argue that judicial deference in relation to ‘substantive outcomes’ has been counterbalanced by a strict ‘process review’. To that effect, I would like to discuss three recent rulings of the ECJ, delivered after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, where an EU policy measure was challenged indirectly, i.e. via the preliminary reference procedure, namely Vodafone, Volker und Markus Schecke and Test-Achats.5 Whilst in the former case the ECJ ruled that the questions raised by the referring court disclosed no factor of such a kind as to affect the validity of the challenged act, in the latter cases the challenged provisions of an EU act were declared invalid.

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    Item Type: Other
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > law & legal affairs-general (includes international law)
    EU policies and themes > EU institutions & developments > European Court of Justice/Court of First Instance
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > College of Europe (Brugge) > Research Papers in Law
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2013 14:49
    Number of Pages: 20
    Last Modified: 22 Dec 2014 09:58

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