several political , institutional and contextual reason sf or these referrals, such as: the configur ation of the national
legal order and judicial review powers
; support for European integration, political awareness and economic
; litigation rate,
trust between judges
and the legal culture o f judges
; pragmatic and pract ical legal
considerations (e.g. length of the procedures)
; and familiarity with E U law and years of democracy ,
Among these theories, the added value of so‐called “judicial empowerment theories”is the emphasis that they
place on the role of national judges' political motivations for cooperating with the CJEU. These accounts argue that
national judges refer cases to the CJEU to empower their position vis‐à‐vis executives, legislatures
Nevertheless, despite their success in describing the impact of politics in the use of preliminary references
sent by national courts, a comprehensive picture of national judges' political motivations in their application of EU law
is still lacking. Judicial empowerment accounts have, until now, limited discussion on this issue to the use of prelim-
inary references by lower courts. Bearing this in mind, this contribution will supplement the existing literature by
exploring other potential scenarios and instruments that national judges can use to challenge the position of their
governments and judicial superiors.
Through the analysis of new data, the present research seeks to expand the explanatory power of judicial empow-
erment theories. By building on previous contributions,
examining national courts' considerations and the relevance
of CJEU precedents for the application of EU law, this article shows how judges can implement CJEU precedent as a
‘weapon’to legitimise their decisions vis‐à‐vis their political and judicial opponents. Furthermore, it widens the basic
assumption of judicial empowerment models by providing a broader cross‐national exploration showing how courts
use CJEU precedent against governments. Finally, this research identifies new scenarios in which political struggle
may occur, namely: when high courts compete with each other to have the last word on policies or within their
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