The Court of Justice clarifies points of European law referred to it by judges in the European Union’s 27 member states and hears appeals of decisions of the General Court, which rules on questions relating to Community trade mark registrations – among other things.
The Court of Justice has 27 judges and eight advocates general. The advocates general provide legal opinions to the Court in some of the most important cases it hears. Each is appointed for six-year term, which is renewable.
The latest appointments have seen Portugal’s José Luís da Cruz Vilaça replace José Narciso da Cunha Rodrigues, and the UK’s Christopher Vajda take over from Sir Konrad Schiemann. Melchior Wathelet replaces Ján Masák as an advocate general in the Court and Eugène Buttigieg of Malta becomes a judge at the General Court, taking the place of Ena Cremona.
José Luís da Cruz Vilaça, Judge, Court of Justice
The 68-year-old Portuguese law professor has been a politician and member of the Portuguese government (helping negotiate the country’s entry into the EU), and served as an advocate general of the Court of Justice between 1986 and 1988 and then as the president of the Court of First Instance (now known as the General Court).
Cruz Vilaça joined Lisbon-based law firm PLMJ as partner and head of its EU and competition practice in 1996.
Christopher Vajda, Judge, Court of Justice
Vajda qualified as a barrister in 1979 and is a member of Monkton Chambers. The 57-year-old studied law at Cambridge and in Brussels and acts as a judge at the Crown Court, which hears criminal cases.
Melchior Wathelet, Advocate General
The Belgian politician has degrees and economics. He has been professor of European law at universities in Louvain and Liège and served as deputy prime minister and minister for justice and economic affairs. The 63-year-old was a judge at the Court of Justice between 1995 and 2003.
Eugène Buttigieg, Judge, General Court
The 51-year-old competition law specialist has served as a legal adviser to the Maltese government on consumer and competition law. He holds the Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law at the University of Malta and was co-founder and vice-president of the Maltese Association for European Law.
Read an interview with Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston in Managing IP.