Lynn Hewlett outlines the benefits for lawyers using the European Court of Justice’s paperless system e-Curia.
Launched in November 2011, e-Curia, the European Court of Justice’s application for electronic document exchange, has met with considerable success and has a steadily growing number of users. At the time of writing all of the major EU institutions, 19 of the 28 member states, Iceland, Lichtenstein, the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) Surveillance Authority and over 1,250 representatives of parties are e-Curia account holders and over 60% of documents in cases before the Court of Justice are lodged electronically.
Although the government of the UK has been an e-Curia user since the early days and many Brussels-based lawyers have subscribed, the take-up amongst British lawyers based in the UK itself has been somewhat slow considering the advantages that the system offers.
Exchanging documents via e-Curia has several advantages:
- It is rapid and reliable.
- It is completely free of charge and no special equipment is necessary in order to use it.
- The document lodged is considered as the original, so you no longer need to lodge a paper version, nor do you need to lodge the certified copies required by the Rules of Procedure in the case of lodging by paper.
- Once you have lodged a document you will immediately receive confirmation of lodging and can consult your document at any time.
- The system is secure; all documents exchanged are encrypted and each document lodged by you is given a unique digital signature (hash) that enables you to check at any time that your document has not been altered or amended.
If you are a lawyer authorised to practise before a court of a member state you may apply for an account to be opened, giving you access to all the functions of e-Curia, thereby allowing you to lodge, receive and consult the procedural documents in a case. Once the account has been opened, you may use e-Curia in every case in which you have been appointed as a representative.
Because the application is common to the three constituent courts of the Court of Justice of the EU (the Court of Justice itself, the General Court and the Staff Tribunal), an access account opened by the Registry of one of those courts is equally valid as regards the Registries of the other two courts.
The procedure for opening an account is relatively simple. Go to the e-Curia login page on the court’s website and fill in the application form for opening an account. The completed form must be sent by post to the Registry of one of the three courts, accompanied by the necessary supporting documents (a copy of your passport or identity card and a copy of a document establishing your professional status, plus a copy of the conditions of use, signed by you as proof of acceptance). This is the one and only time that you will be required to send documents by post.
Once your application has been validated (a matter of a few days after receipt by the Registry) you will receive two separate emails, one containing your user identification, the other containing your password, and you will be all set to lodge and accept service via e-Curia.
You may also apply for an account to be opened for one or more assistants. This account allows the assistant to receive documents served, to consult procedural documents lodged or served, and to prepare a document for lodging, in which case you will be required to enter your password personally in order to validate lodgement.
Procedural documents must be lodged in PDF format. You may lodge files of up to 30mb and, in addition to your pleadings, the application allows you to lodge up to 50 files of annexes; it is designed to cope with voluminous files.
When a document is served on you by the Registry you will receive an email notifying you that a document awaiting service is available in e-Curia. The same notice appears as soon as you log on to e-Curia. Where a party is represented by more than one representative holding an e-Curia account, an email will be sent to each representative and to any assistants designated by them.
The date and time of service is the point in time at which you actually access the document on e-Curia. Where a party is represented by more than one lawyer the point in time taken into account in the reckoning of time limits is the moment when the first request for access is made.
You are advised to consult e-Curia at least once a week. If you have not accessed a document served on you it will be deemed to have been served on the expiry of the seventh day following the day on which the email was sent to you notifying you of the availability of the document. The date of actual or presumed service is shown in e-Curia, and in the event of presumed service a further email will be sent to you to notify you of the date of service.
e-Curia also allows you to consult all documents lodged by you or served on you in respect of all the cases in which you are involved. These documents may be consulted for three months after the decision closing the case, after which time they will be removed from the application.
For further information concerning e-Curia, please visit the Court’s website, and click on the question mark in the blue e-Curia icon that appears on the home page. There you will find not only further information about the application but also three short video demonstrations showing you how to apply for an account, how to lodge documents and how to accept service.
Lynn Hewlett is principal administrator, ECJ Registry