LPJ INTERVIEW: Sinisa Rodin, Judge, Court of Justice of the European Union
1. You have been serving as a judge of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) since 1 July 2013. What are your impressions of the CJEU?
Working at the CJEU is not like any other job. I was impressed, and still am, with its organisation and institutional culture. The CJEU is a well working mechanism and the way it is organised can be an inspiration for other high courts around the world. Due to the rules of procedure, it is also a court where judges’ individual and collective work comes together. The CJEU decides cases that are relevant for the entire EU, shaping the development of case law.
2. You have served as judge rapporteur in a number of cases. What are the responsibilities of a judge rapporteur?
A reporting judge is responsible for managing a case that was assigned to him or her. At the beginning, a preliminary report is drafted and presented at the meeting of all judges and advocates general. The reporting judge proposes the formation that shall decide the case (e.g. 3, 5, 15 judges, or, exceptionally the full Court), whether an opinion of advocate general is needed, as well as a number of other administrative issues. Once the proposal is accepted, the reporting judge has the responsibility to draft the judgment and lead the initiative in the chamber that is deciding the case.
3. Last year the CJEU appointed you as president of a chamber of three judges after only one year in office. Can you tell us more about your role as a chamber president?
Chamber presidency is an administrative function. There are differences between the chambers of five and three judges, but, in either case, the president is responsible for case management and coherence of the work of all judges in a chamber. As a President of the Sixth Chamber, I also assist the President of the First Chamber, which is a chamber of five judges. Chamber presidents coordinate the work of the chamber and also preside at hearings and deliberations.
4. In general, do you think that Croatia has recognised the importance of EU legislation relative to its national legislation?
Croatia had to introduce the law of the EU into its national legal order during the accession negotiations. While certain discrepancies can always be present, a large portion of the law has been harmonised. EU law has become Croatian national law and, having said so, Croatian courts and authorities are bound by it. Whether EU law is pleaded by parties in national proceedings is a separate question, which cannot be answered without empirical research. The more parties invoke and rely on EU law in judicial proceedings, the more national courts will apply it.
However, I would like to emphasise another dimension, which is a participatory one. Member States are in position to influence the evolution of EU law by taking part in the legal proceedings before a CJEU hearing, either in written or in oral form. They can do so not just in cases involving themselves, but in any case, involving any other Member State and any other party. Many Member States use this opportunity regularly and some Member States appear from time to time. For that purpose they have legal agents, specifically, lawyers commissioned by the Government with the specific task to represent the State before our Court. From the perspective of the CJEU, it is very desirable that States are well represented, since this allows them to clarify their legal positions and make the work of the Court easier. For that purpose, Member States usually establish a special office of the agent before the CJEU.
5. Are Croatian judges educated enough to preside over cases related to EU Law (e.g. sending preliminary references to the CJEU)?
Before being appointed to the CJEU, one part of my work, as a professor, was related to the education of judges. The professional formation of judges should take place not only at University, but also as a part of the professional education of judges and attorneys. The technical capacity to draft and send preliminary references to the CJEU should not be a problem for a national judge. However, what is extremely important is that both, the parties to judicial proceedings and judges, develop the ability to identify situations in which EU law is applicable and whereby interpretation given by the CJEU can help them to decide the case at hand. Interpretations of EU law given by the CJEU can change the outcomes of national cases; the more parties are aware of that this is the case, the more they will plead EU law before national courts.
Born in 1963, Sinisa Rodin holds a PhD from the Law Faculty, University in Zagreb, and an LLM degree from the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, the United States.
He specialised in European Law at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, and German Constitutional Law at the Max-Planck Institut in Heidelberg, Germany.
Rodin held the Jean Monnet Chair at the Zagreb Law Faculty and was Co-Director of the European Studies programme at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Zagreb. He also co-authored the first textbook on EU Law in the Croatian language.