Lunch seminar with Tommaso Pavone

This talk revisits one of the most influential theories of the political origins of legal integration in the European Union. In this view, known as the "judicial empowerment" thesis, national judges – particularly within lower courts – autonomously and enthusiastically began referring cases to the EU’s European Court of Justice (ECJ) via the preliminary reference procedure to acquire new powers of judicial review and overturn unwanted jurisprudence of domestic supreme courts. But where did the opportunities to cooperate with the ECJ come from, and were national judges the only or primary pioneers of this process of institutional change?

In this talk, I argue that the agency of a small cohort of Euro-lawyers proved critical to persuading national judges to collaborate with the ECJ to enforce EU law in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Lawyers fabricated lawsuits meant to surface conflicts between national law and EU law, educated judges about their duty to uphold EU rules, and volunteered their labor by drafting preliminary references for their oftentimes-reticent judicial interlocutors. This argument is unpacked via qualitative interview and archival fieldwork in Italy, France, and Germany – including interviews with over 300 lawyers and judges and previously confidential archival documents – gathered over a year and a half of fieldwork. Euro-lawyers, in short, have served as ghostwriters of European integration, pioneering the judicial construction of Europe even as their efforts remained largely couched behind the authority of national judges.

All interested are welcome to attend. Registration is not necessary.