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Institutionalisation of Political Parties: Comparative Cases. Edited by Robert Harmel and Lars G. Svasand

Judicial Legitimation Strategies Amidst Pressure on Judicial Authority – How the CJEU Upgrades its Public Relations Toolbox

European Union
Julian Dederke
University of Zurich
Julian Dederke
University of Zurich

Public attention is important for courts to ensure compliance, support, and legitimacy. This applies even more so under conditions of increased pressure on judicial authority in the EU and amidst criticism of the CJEU. Data on newspaper coverage for CJEU decisions shows that press releases serve the Court well in stimulating media coverage. However, the way the CJEU reaches out to the public and media in order to disseminate information and to legitimate its doing has not been investigated in a systematic manner so far. The paper asks how and to what extent the CJEU extended its public relations activities in recent years. With help of press release data, budget reports and interviews with CJEU communications staff I can show how the CJEU professionalized its communication strategies and upgrades its public relations toolbox by including social media channels. However, the CJEU faces a trade-off between necessary legitimation efforts vis-à-vis outward audiences on the one hand, and risking politicization of its judgments on the other hand. The paper introduces original interview material and data for all CJEU press releases for 1997-2018. Overall, the CJEU’s staff seems to be convinced that the benefits of upgrading its public relations toolbox outweigh potential costs. The number of languages in which the CJEU issues press releases for the members of the 2004 accession round shows a significant increase over time. However, this effect is clearer for press releases for opinions of the Court’s Advocate General than for those that concern its judgments. Surprisingly, the Court does not seem to address Polish audiences more often over time, although in Poland the rule of law is threatened according to the Court. The way the CJEU addresses trade-offs of public attention might be exemplary for other EU courts or ICs, given the pressure on courts in various jurisdictions.
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