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European Case Law Identifier

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European Case Law Identifier

The Council of the European Union (EU) invites the introduction of a European Case Law Identifier (“ECLI”) and a minimum set of uniform metadata for case law. The European Identifier will enable national case law to be numbered in accordance with a standard code, thus facilitating legal research on the internet.

ACT

Council conclusions inviting the introduction of the European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) and a minimum set of uniform metadata for case law [Official Journal C 127 of 29.4.2011].

SUMMARY

The case law * of national courts is a significant source of information on Member States’ legal systems and also on European law. In addition to the problems connected with plurilingualism, the absence of uniform case law identifiers is an obstacle to cross-border research on questions of legal order. Citizens, legal professionals and national authorities should therefore have a tool which enables case law to be searched easily.

This does not mean creating a centralised European database on national case law, but rather a common system for the identification and metadata of case law. There are currently several databases (JURE, EUR-Lex, Jurifast, etc.), but none of them uses the same identification system for judicial decisions, nor the same rules concerning metadata *.

Member States should establish (on a voluntary basis):

  • the European Case Law Identifier: this standard code, consisting of five components, will enable judicial decisions to be identified more easily;
  • a minimum set of uniform metadata: the Council of the EU has drawn up a list of metadata, such as the country in which the court or tribunal is seated and the date of the decision, which must accompany each document which is an instance of a judgment.

Each participating Member State must appoint a governmental or judicial organisation as the national ECLI Coordinator. Courts and tribunals within one country may join the system at any time. A European identifier should be given to all judgments which are rendered and not only to those published on the internet.

An ECLI website will be set up as part of the European e-Justice portal. It will provide information on the format and use of the identifier, as well as on the metadata and the national coordinators. It will also enable access to an ECLI search interface. This interface will not be a database at European level but will simply enable a search to be carried out, using the ECLI and certain metadata, of the interconnected national databases and websites.

Key terms of the Act

  • Case law: all of the judicial decisions relating to a given judicial question.
  • Metadata: in IT this relates to data whose purpose is to describe other data, for example by providing information on the date of publication or on the author of the data. It therefore makes it easier to consult information and improves the relevance of the results displayed by search engines.

RELATED ACT(S)

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee of 30 May 2008 – Towards a European e-Justice Strategy [COM(2008) 329 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 18.07.2011

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