ECLI is the acronym for the European Case Law Identifier. It is used to identify court decisions in member states of the European Union. The Council of the European Union called on the member states to introduce the ECLI in 2011. It is at the discretion of each member state to decide on use of the ECLI and whether only recent or also older decisions will be assigned an ECLI. In Germany, the Federal Administrative Court, the five highest federal courts, the Federal Patent Court and the courts of the federal states (Länder) have joined the ECLI-system.

Each decision by the Federal Administrative Court published on this website is given an ECLI. It is a unique identifier of the decision, ensuring its identification Europe-wide.

Citizens can use the ECLI to search for court decisions in European and national decision databases. Moreover, the ECLI – if assigned – allows them to obtain sources, summaries, translations and annotations of the decisions.

The ECLI is composed of letters and numbers. It is divided into several sections that are separated by colons, namely the country code, the court, the year and the local identifier. The identifier consists of up to 25 characters. It is composed as follows when used by the Federal Administrative Court: The first six digits denote the date on which the decision was pronounced. In seventh place is a letter for the type of decision. ‘U’ stands for judgment, ‘B’ for decision (Beschluss) and ‘G’ for court order. It is followed by the file reference number. At the end there is an ordinal number to distinguish several rulings of the same type that were issued on the same date.

An example of an ECLI describing a decision by the Federal Administrative Court in 2017 would be: 'ECLI:DE:BVerwG:2017:250117U9C30.15.0'. The local identifier states that the decision was announced on 25 January 2017. This is a judgment issued in the proceedings heard under file reference number ‘9 C 30.15’. There was no other decision of the same kind on the same day, issued under this file reference number.

The competence centre Legal Information of the Federal Government (RIS) is the ECLI coordinator for Germany and offers additional information on the ECLI.