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Book launch and Discussion

Discussants: Gerard Hogan and Fernanda Nicola

Author: William Phelan

Great Judgments of the European Court of Justice: Rethinking the Landmark Decisions of the Foundational Period (Cambridge UP)

Thursday 15 April 2021, 5pm Irish Time, via Zoom

Please join us for a book launch and discussion of William Phelan’s book “Great Judgments of the European Court of Justice”. The book offers a new approach to understanding the ECJ’s famous decisions in the 1960s and 1970s – Van Gend en Loos, Costa, Van Duyn, and so on – through use of the comparative method and by drawing in detail on the writings and speeches of the influential French ECJ judge and President of the Court, Robert Lecourt. It highlights the importance of the ECJ’s 1964 Dairy Products judgment in understanding the logic and purpose of Van Gend en Loos and the doctrine of direct effect. The book will be enjoyed by students and scholars of EU law, and by anyone interested in understanding the role of the European Court of Justice.

Participating in the launch and discussion are:

  • Gerard Hogan, Advocate General of the European Court of Justice
  • Fernanda Nicola, Professor of Law, and historian of EU law, American University Washington College of Law
  • William Phelan, Associate Professor and Jean Monnet Chair of EU Politics and Law, Trinity College Dublin
  • Aileen Kavanagh (Panel Chair), Professor of Constitutional Governance, School of Law, Trinity College Dublin

We would kindly ask attendees to register here (for free) through Eventbrite. Once registered, you will then be sent the relevant Zoom login information closer to the time of the launch event

After the presentation and discussion there will be an opportunity for questions and answers from attendees.

More information about “Great Judgments of the European Court of Justice” (with an image of Robert Lecourt on the cover) can be found here

What they are saying about “Great Judgments of the European Court of Justice”

Joseph Weiler’s “10 Good Reads” for 2020:

‘Give me a break’ was my thought when this book landed on my desk. Costa, Van Gend, Simmenthal ‘Been there, done that!!’ But if you are like me, you know the cases, you know what you are going to say about them when you teach them, and you parrot it out like an actor in the 127th performance of Death of a Salesman, deus ex machina, whilst thinking of last night’s delightful dinner. When have you last actually gone and reread them or, if you refresh yourself before class, when have you last ‘rethought’ them? It is precisely that familiarity, coupled with Phelan’s clear and clarifying style of writing, which makes this a good read. I gulped it down on one grey Covid Sunday (blessedly it weighs in at a mere 240 pages) and found myself learning something new and/or thinking somewhat differently on each of these cases about which I had imagined I could not learn anything new. I also found myself disagreeing with several points along the way, but there is a pleasure in that too. This book, alongside Maduro and Azoulai’s The Past and Future of EU Law: The Classics of EU Law Revisited on the 50th Anniversary of the Rome Treaty could serve as a very interesting basis for a graduate student seminar. See more at

Xavier Groussot’s review in the Nordic Journal of European Law:

This book on the great judgments of the European Court of Justice is a great little book (around 250 pages). However, it is not a case-law book or a course book (though the main findings of the books should be integrated in our teaching of EU law). The book provides a focused argument on the development of EU law. It is a stimulating and easy read, which is catching the reader attention from the beginning to the end. It is certainly one of the best books that I have read in 2020 (and I have read many books during this special Covid19 year!). The book is highly recommended. The book takes the view that the great judgments can be better understood both by comparisons with alternative means of enforcing trade- related Treaty obligations and through the writing of influential Judge Robert Lecourt. This is the two key angles of the book and also its novelty. See more at

In collaboration with the Trinity Centre for Constitutional Governance - TriCon - at Trinity's School of Law