Monday, October 25, 2010

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ): The Court of Justice and the General Court plus the Specialized Panels: Getting the Names Right after the Lisbon Treaty

By virtue of the Treaty of Lisbon, the Court of Justice of the European Communities recently changed its name to Court of Justice of the European Union (EU).

Remarkably, as of the last time we looked (22 October 2010), the official EU pages for "the Court" have not been properly edited to reflect all the changes required by the Treaty of Lisbon, which amended the treaties comprising the constitutional framework of the EU. The official EU page currently writes:
"Following the entry into force of a new EU treaty, the content of this page is under revision."
That new treaty, the Treaty of Lisbon, now serves as the constitutional basis of the European Union and its institutions:
"The Constitution changes the name of the Court of Justice. In the future, the term "Court of Justice of the European Union" will officially designate the two levels of jurisdiction taken together. The supreme body is now called the "Court of Justice" while the Court of First Instance of the European Communities is renamed "General Court". Article I-29 states that the Court of Justice of the European Union includes "the European Court of Justice, the General Court and specialised courts"."
As written at the Wikipedia on the European Court of Justice:
"Following the entrance into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December 2009, the ECJ's official name was changed from the "Court of Justice of the European Communities" to the "Court of Justice" although in English it is still most common to refer to the Court as the European Court of Justice. The Court of First Instance was renamed as the "General Court", and the term "Court of Justice of the European Union" will officially designate the two courts, as along with its specialised tribunals, taken together."
Regarding the General Court (European Union), the Wikipedia writes:
"The General Court (EGC) is a jurisdictional instance of the Court of Justice of the European Union. From its inception on 1 January 1989 to 30 November 2009, it was known as the Court of First Instance (CFI).

The General Court hears disputes (such as disputes brought by those refused a trademark by OHIM, the EU Trade Mark and designs registry). Appeals are sent to the European Court of Justice. The General Court is an independent Court attached to the European Court of Justice.

The creation of the General Court instituted a judicial system based on two levels of jurisdiction: all cases heard at first instance by the General Court may be subject to a right of appeal to the Court of Justice on points of law only....

The General Court (previously known as "the Court of First Instance") is composed of 27 judges, at least one from each Member State, plus a registrar. The Judges are appointed for a renewable term of six years by common accord of the governments of the Member States.

The Members of the General Court elect their President and the Presidents of the Chambers of five Judges from among their number for a renewable period of three years.

There are no permanent Advocates General attached to the General Court (unlike the European Court of Justice which has 8 Advocates General). However, the task of an Advocate General may be performed in a limited number of cases by a Judge nominated to do so. In practice this has been done only very occasionally."
See in this general regard Struan Robertson at OUT-LAW.COM in How often does the ECJ follow Advocates General? Or should that be CJEU?

As to the special panels of the Court, the Wikipedia writes concerning the specialized tribunal, the European Union Civil Service Tribunal:
"The European Union Civil Service Tribunal is a specialised tribunal within the Court of Justice of the European Union. It was established on 2 December 2005.

The Treaty of Nice provides for the creation of judicial panels in certain specific areas. This provision is later amended and codified in Article 257 (‘specialised courts’) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union by the Treaty of Lisbon:[1]
"The European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, may establish specialised courts attached to the General Court to hear and determine at first instance certain classes of action or proceeding brought in specific areas. The European Parliament and the Council shall act by means of regulations either on a proposal from the Commission after consultation of the Court of Justice or at the request of the Court of Justice after consultation of the Commission. [...]"
The Council of the European Union on 2 November 2004, adopted on that basis a decision establishing the European Union Civil Service Tribunal.[2] The new specialised court, composed of seven judges, is called upon to adjudicate in disputes between the European Union and its civil service, a jurisdiction until 2005 was exercised by the General Court. Its decisions will be subject to appeal on questions of law only to the General Court and, in exceptional cases, to review by the European Court of Justice.
We reproduce the following text from the EU website on the Treaty of Lisbon:
"The Treaty of Lisbon amends the EU's two core treaties, the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community. The latter is renamed the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. In addition, several Protocols and Declarations are attached to the Treaty.
As written at Consilium - Treaty of Lisbon:
"The Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community was signed in the Portuguese capital on 13 December 2007 by the representatives of the twenty-seven Member States. It entered into force on 1 December 2009, after being ratified by all the Member States.

The Treaty on European Union includes a provision for the amendment of the Treaties. Article 48 says that any Member State, the European Parliament or the Commission can submit proposals for the amendment of the Treaties to the Council. The Council forwards any such proposals to the European Council, and the national Parliaments are notified. If the European Council agrees to examine the proposed amendments, its President convenes a Convention composed of representatives of the national Parliaments, the Heads of State or Government of the Member States, the European Parliament and the Commission. The Convention examines the proposals for amendment and adopts by consensus a recommendation to an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), which is convened by the President of the Council. Alternatively and subject to the consent of the European Parliament, the European Council can also decide by a simple majority not to convene a Convention if a Convention is not justified by the extent of the proposed amendments, in which case it is the European Council itself that defines the terms of reference of an IGC, which is then convened by the President of the Council. In any case, an IGC composed of all the Member States is convened (whether preceded by a Convention or not) and any amendment to the Treaties must be ratified by all the Member States in accordance with their own constitutional requirements.

The Lisbon Treaty is the latest of the Treaties which, to date, have amended the Treaties on the basis of which the Communities and the European Union were founded, such as the Single European Act (1986), the Treaty on European Union (Maastricht Treaty) (1992), the Amsterdam Treaty (1997) and the Treaty of Nice (2001)."

Personal Rights and Online Law: Facebook Breaches Online Privacy via Applications (Apps) that Transmit Identifying Information

Facebook has a problem with privacy law and there is no indication that they have learned from past gaffes.

At the Wall Street Journal Online, Emily Steel and Geoffrey A. Fowler write that Facebook in Online Privacy Breach as Applications Transmitting Identifying Information.

The journalistic investigation reveals not only that "top-ranked applications transmit personal IDs", but that ALL of the top 10 Facebook apps transmit user IDs.

There are over 500,000 apps so that the potential for privacy breaches is mind-boggling. As the WSJ writes:
"Defenders of online tracking argue that this kind of surveillance is benign because it is conducted anonymously. In this case, however, the Journal found that one data-gathering firm, RapLeaf Inc., had linked Facebook user ID information obtained from apps to its own database of Internet users, which it sells. RapLeaf also transmitted the Facebook IDs it obtained to a dozen other firms, the Journal found.

RapLeaf said that transmission was unintentional. "We didn't do it on purpose" ....
That is little solace to those whose privacy has been breached.

Read the whole thing.

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