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French Court structure

(excluding all Criminal Courts)

The main Courts which non-French plaintiffs or defendants are likely to encounter in their dealings in France are :

  1. Tribunal dInstance or Lower District Civil Court of First Instance which hears civil matters within its statutory competence or matters in which the amount at suit is below a specific amount.
  2. Tribunal de Grande Instance or Higher District Civil Court of First Instance before which litigants are required by statute to be represented by a French Attorney (viz. in French an "Avocat")
  3. Tribunal de Commerce or Commercial Court - this is a separate court of first instance which deals only with matters relating to commercial business disputes and the Bench is elected from within the local business community.
  4. Conseil de Prudhommes or Employment Court - this is also a distinct court of first instance, the Bench of which is elected from two separate electoral colleges (employers and employees) and which deals only with matters relating to employment disputes.
  5. Cour dAppel or Court of Appeal (there are over thirty in France, in each of its major administrative regions) the Cour dAppel hears matters on appeal from all of the above Courts.
  6. Cour de Cassation or Court of Cassation (sometimes referred to as Frances Supreme Judicial Court) - this Court is held only to address matters of law (i.e. interpretation of the law) in regard to decisions of a French Court of Appeal and does not revisit facts.
  7. Tribunaux administratifs - there exists, in parallel to the above Civil Courts, a totally distinct Court structure with very different procedural rules which deals solely with matters which come within the scope of French Administrative Law viz. usually involving the French State, or a public body, as one of the litigants.

The above list is not intended to be exhaustive and for example and notably the Criminal Courts are deliberately not dealt with, nor are any of the specialised jurisdictions such as the Social Security Courts etc.

It should be noted that in any event and before virtually all French Courts of whatever nature, the oral part of the proceedings is far less important (in comparison with, say, common-law jurisdictions) than the exchange of written submissions prior to the trial per se.

Moreover, for all comparative intents and purposes, cross-examination of witnesses does not exist and furthermore there are no juries in Civil matters and hearings and trials are usually also quite short compared to common-law jurisdictions.

For a specific Court structure enquiry, please click here