Robert Lecourt

Robert Lecourt (19 September 1908 – 9 August 2004) was a French politician and lawyer, judge and the fourth President of the European Court of Justice. He was born in Pavilly and died in Boulogne-Billancourt.

Robert Lecourt (1970)

Significantly, in his role as a judge at European Court of Justice, he gave the landmark decision in the case of Costa v ENEL, establishing the supremacy of EU law over member state's law.


After studying at college Jean-Baptiste-de-La-Salle in Rouen, he studied law at the University of Rouen and became a lawyer in Rouen and the Paris Court of Appeal in 1932.

He was the president of the Youth People's Democratic Party in 1936, and a Lieutenant at Fort Saint-Cyr in 1939, whereafter he became actively involved in the Resistance; He was a member of the steering committee of the Resistance movement.

In 1958, he was elected in the first constituency of the Hautes-Alpes.A member of two constituent national assemblies, he was elected MRP of the Seine, and retained his mandate during the three legislatures of the Fourth Republic. He chaired the MRP group of the National Assembly and he was also a member of the Association of MRP until his death.

He served as judge on the European Court of Justice from 1962 to 1976, and as President of the Court from 1967 to 1976. In the fourteen years which he spent in Luxembourg as a European judge, Lecourt had a major impact on the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Communities.[1] In 1964, he was rapporteur in the famous Costa vs ENEL case, in which the Court of Justice ruled that European law had primacy over national law. Lecourt was intimately convinced that taking this step was a necessity for the Court of Justice and that the European judges had an active role to play in the creation of an ‘ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’. In order for them to take on this responsibility, it was clear that they had to convince national courts to collaborate. Soon after his election as president, Lecourt consequently developed a vast communication strategy, which aimed at convincing national judges of the benefits of the preliminary ruling mechanism, a procedure through which they could ask the European judges questions regarding the interpretation of the European Treaties.[2]

On retirement from the Court, Lecourt published "L'Europe des Juges" (Bruylant, 1976), an account of the major decisions and principles of European law targeted at national lawyers and judges.

Government Functions

  • Minister of Justice of the Government of André Marie (from July 26 5 September 1947 )
  • Minister of Justice of the Government of Robert Schuman (5 to 11 September 1948 )
  • Vice-Chairman, Minister of Justice of the Government of Queuille (the 13 February 1949 the 28 October 1949 )
  • Minister of Justice of the Government of Felix Gaillard (the 6 November 1957 the 14 May 1958 )
  • Minister of Justice of the Government of Pierre Pflimlin (May 14 1 June 1958 )
  • With the special award of the constitutional reform.
  • Minister of State of the Government of Michel Debré (from January 8 27 March 1959 )
  • Minister of State, responsible for cooperation with African States and Madagascar, in the Government of Michel Debré (the 27 March 1959 the 5 February 1960 )
  • Minister of State in charge of the Sahara, Departments and Territories Overseas, in the Government of Michel Debré (the 5 February 1960 the 24 August 1961 )

See also


  1. William Phelan, Great Judgments of the European Court of Justice: Rethinking the Landmark Decisions of the Foundational Period (Cambridge, 2019)
  2. Robert Lecourt (1908 - 2014)


Legal offices
Preceded by
Charles Léon Hammes
President of the European Court of Justice
Succeeded by
Hans Kutscher
Political offices
Preceded by
André Marie
Minister of Justice of France
26 June 1948 – 11 September 1948
Succeeded by
André Marie
Preceded by
André Marie
Minister of Justice of France
13 February 1949 – 28 October 1949
Succeeded by
René Mayer
Preceded by
Édouard Corniglion-Molinier
Minister of Justice of France
6 November 1957 – 1 June 1958
Succeeded by
Michel Debré