Citations to Foreign Courts -- Illegitimate and Superfluous, or Unavoidable? Evidence from Europe

43 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2013 Last revised: 29 Jan 2014

See all articles by Martin Gelter

Martin Gelter

Fordham University School of Law; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Mathias Siems

European University Institute (EUI); Durham University

Date Written: September 24, 2013


The theoretical arguments in favour and against citations to foreign courts have reached a high degree of sophistication. Yet, this debate is often based on merely anecdotal assumptions about the actual use of cross-citations. This article aims to fill this gap. It provides quantitative evidence from ten European supreme courts in order to assess the desirability of such cross-citations. In addition, it examines individual cases qualitatively, developing a taxonomy of cross-citations based on the degree to which courts engage with foreign law. Overall, this article high-lights the often superficial nature of cross-citations in the some courts; yet, it also concludes that, by and large, our analysis supports the use of cross-citations: it does not have the pernicious effects sometimes suggested by critics of the practices, such as undercutting national sovereignty and the legitimacy of the legal system. At best, cross-citations provide a source of inspiration how to interpret national law. At worst, they are largely ornamental and marginally help to make a particular policy argument appear more persuasive.

This paper is part of a research project comprising three articles. The other two articles can be downloaded at and

Keywords: Cross-Citations, Supreme Courts, Legal Origins, Legal Culture, Comparative Law, Comparative Civil Procedure

JEL Classification: A12, A13, B52, C21, C24, K00, K41, P48

Suggested Citation

Gelter, Martin and Siems, Mathias, Citations to Foreign Courts -- Illegitimate and Superfluous, or Unavoidable? Evidence from Europe (September 24, 2013). American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 62, No. 1, 2014, pp. 35-85; Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2330419. Available at SSRN: or

Martin Gelter (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

150 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States
646-312-8752 (Phone)


European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)


Mathias Siems

European University Institute (EUI) ( email )

Via Bolognese 156 (Villa Salviati)
Firenze, 50139


Durham University ( email )

Stockton Road
Durham, County Durham DH1 3LE
United Kingdom


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