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The term case law means the body of judgments of a particular court or legal system. For example, you can speak about the case law of the European Court of Justice or the case law of French criminal courts, e.g. on equal treatment on the grounds of gender. Sometimes case law is referred to as 'jurisprudence'.

What is case law?

The case law of the highest national courts and of international courts (like the European Court of Justice - ECJ) are an important source to know what "the law" is.

In their judgments, courts need not only apply the law as it can be read in their national laws or in Treaties or Directives, they can also interpret the legal norms set by this legislation. Every reading of a given text involves interpretation of its meaning.

Courts can interpret a certain legal norm:

  • restrictively (staying close to the literal text of the law and/or narrowing down the impact of the norm) or
  • extensively (taking more liberty towards the meaning of a certain legal text and/or broadening or extending its scope).

The ECJ has played an important role in the interpretation of EC law in general, especially by the judgments in the rulings on the basis of Article 228 (Infringement procedures) and on the basis of Article 234 EC (preliminary rulings).

Below you can find an example of a recent case decided by the ECJ concerning the interpretation and effects of the directives regarding Equal Treatment between men and women. For information on a particular case, you will find under this document a complete list of ECJ case law regarding Equal Treatment between men and womenpdf(2 MB) Choose translations of the previous link .

Example of a recent case: