Administrative Jurisdiction in France in Europe
Purpose of the administrative jurisdiction
In many countries, the administrative courts are separate from the ordinary jurisdictions (civil and criminal).
Their mission is to settle the disputes between private parties and public authorities (administrations), whereas the ordinary jurisdictions settle disputes between private parties and issue decisions against violations of criminal law.
The administrative courts are independent from the French State. Their mission is to ensure compliance with and application of the law.
Organization of the Administrative Courts
Note: this information may be out of date.
The administrative jurisdiction includes 3 levels of courts:
- the Administrative Courts (Tribunaux administratifs) : there are 35 in the French metropolitan area and overseas territories;
- the Administrative Courts of Appeal (Cours administratives d’appel) : there are five such courts located in Bordeaux, Lyons, Nancy, Nantes and Paris;
- The Conseil d’Etat, the highest administrative court: it intervenes principally in connection with appeals on matters of law, i.e. to verify that the decisions of the Administrative Court of Appeal are in compliance with the law.
The Administrative Court uses ordinary rules of law (droit commun), i.e. it is to this Court that the claimant (the party initiating a claim) must refer to.
If not satisfied by the judgement rendered by the Administrative Court, the claimant may appeal the decision before the Administrative Court of Appeals.
If the decision of the Administrative Court of appeal does not satisfy him, he may file an ultimate appeal in “cassation” (recours en cassation) with the Conseil d’Etat, though review is solely limited to arguments of law.
Circumstances for applying to an Administrative Court in France
You may challenge only the decisions of public authorities (for example, a decree, regulation, letter refusing benefits, etc.) before the Administrative Courts.
In the absence of a decision, you may address a request to the relevant authorities so that they may render a decision.
This request must be clear and, when applicable, supported by figures.
- If the authorities reject your request, in principle you benefit from 2 months to file a request (“requete” or petition) with the Administrative Court.
- If, after a period of four months, the authorities fail to respond to your request, this silence is considered to constitute a rejection of your request which you may then contest before the Administrative Court.
In certain situations of urgency, you may use procedures which permit you to protect your rights: summary application for an interim order (refere), stay of execution (sursis a execution) of the initial decision.
One may refer to the administrative courts to:
- request the cancellation of a decision taken by a Government authority: Minister, Prefect, Municipal Authority, university, hospital, etc.;
- request indemnification to compensate for prejudice caused to you: damage caused resulting from public works, negligence or fault on the part of a public service, etc.;
- contest the amount of your taxes;
- contest a measure of expulsion from the French territory;
- contest the result of a local or cantonal election…
Note: this information may be out of date.
You must file your request (requete) with the Clerk of the Administrative Court.
- The request must filed with a stamp. There is no printed form to fill out and it is to be drafted on loose-leaf paper.
- You must first present grounds (moyens) for your claim, i.e. the reasons that you invoke to justify the validity of your action.
- You must then draft your pleadings (conclusions), i.e. the presentation of your request. For example, the cancellation of the administrative decision, the attribution of damages as compensation for the prejudice caused, etc.
- Depending on the case, you may or may not be required to be assisted by legal counsel.
- After the filing of your request, all exchanges are carried out in writing, through an exchange of correspondence (memoires or statements of claim) organised by the Court Clerk’s office.
The Presiding Judge of the Court appoints a “reporting” judge (i.e. a rapporteur who prepares a report on the case) to oversee the investigation of the case.
When this judge considers that sufficient information has been gathered, the case enters into the judgement phase.
The case is transmitted to a “government commissioner” (commissaire du gouvernement), who is an expert in administrative law.
The mission of this judge is to present the facts and all the arguments put forward by both sides to the court and to propose, in complete independence, the solution this judge considers appropriate for the case: his own “conclusions”.
After having heard the pleadings of the government commissioner, the judges then adjourn for deliberation: this is the consultation or “delibere” during which they take their decision.
The parties are then notified of the judgement, i.e. served to them by registered letter.
The judgement includes:
- The “visas”: i.e. an analysis of the arguments presented by both sides and the laws and regulations applicable to the case;
- The “motifs”, i.e. the grounds for the decision,
- The “dispositif”, i.e. the actual decision.