Book Review: Judicial Review and the Rights of Private Parties in EC Law by Angela Ward. Oxford: Oxford University Press, (2000). 368 Pages.

8 Colum. J. Eur. L. 145 (2002)

reviewed by Elizabeth Perez.

The evolution of the role of European Union (EU) institutions in the past decade has outpaced the expectations of many observers, and the European Court of Justice has not lagged behind other EU institutions in the sometimes contentious struggle to develop an acceptable balance between Member State sovereignty and effective application of European Community (EC) laws. Angela Ward’s JudicialReview and the Rights of Private Parties in EC Law provides ample evidence that despite the European Court of Justice’s general progression towards a more thorough review of EC law with regard to Member State application, the development of the Court’s role in the protection of the rights of individuals under EC law has been both muddled and inconsistent. In this book, Ward presents a careful and detailed analysis of the interaction between private parties, national courts and the Court of Justice in the arena of the rights of private parties.

The author presumes a basic understanding of the mechanisms of the Court of Justice and familiarity with relevant articles of the EU Treaties that established and direct the operation of the Court, and she addresses her work to those interested in a detailed description of case law development of the issues at hand. As such, the book is not ideal for a reader seeking basic insight into the role of the Court, but is a useful guide to the recent history and legal developments of the rights of private parties under EC law. It provides an excellent platform for the reader interested in watching the continued evolution of the Court’s review of both Member State and EC institutional liability to private parties.

Ward begins with a description of the Treaty’s directions to the Court of Justice as well as a brief overview of the Court’s history that brings the reader to the point at which she begins her detailed discussion of the procedural developments. Following the introduction, the book is roughly divided into two sections. The first section, chapters 3-5, addresses the rights of individuals to bring proceedings and recover damages from Member States in national courts based on EC law; the second section, chapters 6-8, addresses the rights of private parties to challenge EC laws and recover damages from Community institutions. The final chapter draws together the comparisons and observations made in both sections.

In chapter 3, entitled “Current Issues in the Court of Justice Case Law on Member State Remedies and Procedural Rules,” the author addresses the growing intrusion of the Court of Justice into national legal systems and provides the reader with a thorough discussion of the key principles the Court has developed within the last decade to determine State liability for breach of EC law. This discussion covers the conditions under which States will be held liable, the time limits of liability, the application of national law governing the extent of damage awards and the extent to which national courts are required to introduce remedies unavailable under their own national law in order to satisfy EC remedy requirements. One of the issues the author discusses in chapter 3 is the effectiveness principle.  Ward demonstrates that the Court of Justice has used the principle to expand its reach  into national law in areas including interim relief for those challenging Member State application of EC law, national time limits for bringing proceedings on claims that EC law has been breached, and the right to judicial review. In each of these areas, however, Ward presents persuasive evidence that while the Court of Justice has in some cases boldly expanded its own role, there is a tendency to quickly narrow the reach of its decisions. For example, with regard to national time limits for bringing proceedings against Member States for breach of EC law, the Court’s decision in Emmott, according to Ward, seemed to indicate that, with respect to Directives that are directly effective, “any and all claims brought by applicants pursuant to an unimplemented Directive would be permissible, even if they were brought years after the relevant loss or damage was sustained,” and even if Member State time limits barred the party from bringing proceedings. However, the Court’s subsequent decisions in Steenhorst, Johnson No. I,s and Johnson No. 26 worked to narrow Emmott’s impact by allowing Member States to limit retroactive payments in cases in which an unimplemented Directive is the basis for recovery. As the author convincingly demonstrates, this pattern of aggressive expansion of the Court’s role in judicial review followed by drastic limiting of the same characterizes the Court’s treatment of many issues related to the subject of this book.