British lawyer kicked off EU court

Eleanor Sharpston's successor sworn in minutes after she learns court has ruled against her

Eleanor Sharpston QC was removed from her position as a member of the EU Court of Justice this morning, even though her mandate has more than a year to run.

Her name no longer appears on the court’s membership list. She has been replaced as one of the EU court’s advocates general by Athanasios Rantos, from Greece.

He was sworn in this morning. It is normal practice for the outgoing advocate general to be invited to the ceremony and thanked for her or his service.

Sharpston was not notified of the swearing-in and so was not present. The highly regarded lawyer — who is a national of both the UK and Luxembourg — has served the court for 14 years.

Her team of lawyers have not been told whether they are now out of work. Normally they leave when their advocate general stands down. But neither Sharpston nor her legal team were given advance warning of today’s events, which appear to have been pre-planned.

Earlier this morning, the vice-president of the court set aside a temporary injunction obtained by Sharpston last Friday.

The vice-president’s order was made without giving Sharpston or her legal team the opportunity to be heard. She was notified only after the order had been made. Rantos was sworn in some 30 minutes later.

As I reported here, Sharpston is expected to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights. There is no love lost between the EU court in Luxembourg and the human rights court in Strasbourg.

Lawyers were shocked by what they saw as the injudicious way in which the court handled this issue: