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The European Court of Justice, State Noncompliance, and the Politics of Override



In an article previously published by the APSR, Carrubba, Gabel, and Hankla claim that the decision making of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has been constrained—systematically—by the threat of override on the part of member state governments, acting collectively, and by the threat of noncompliance on the part of any single state. They also purport to have found strong evidence in favor of intergovernmentalist, but not neofunctionalist, integration theory. On the basis of analysis of the same data, we demonstrate that the threat of override is not credible and that the legal system is activated, rather than paralyzed, by noncompliance. Moreover, when member state governments did move to nullify the effects of controversial ECJ rulings, they failed to constrain the court, which continued down paths cleared by the prior rulings. Finally, in a head-to-head showdown between intergovernmentalism and neofunctionalism, the latter wins in a landslide.


Corresponding author

Alec Stone Sweet is Leitner Professor of Law, Politics, and International Studies, Yale Law School and Department of Political Science, Yale University, 127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06520 (
Thomas Brunell is Professor of Political Science, University of Texas at Dallas, 800 West Campbell Road, Richardson, TX 75080 (


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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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