French Court System

French Court System in Europe

Judicial Authority

Judicial authority is established by Title VIII of the Constitution (English – unofficial translation). As France is a civil law jurisdiction, the Nouveau code de procĂ©dure civile states that a judge adjudicates for the instant case and there is no precedent established. According to Article 5 of theNouveau code de procĂ©dure civile: “Le juge doit se prononcer sur tout ce qui est demandĂ© et seulement sur ce qui est demandĂ©.”

However, in reality, there has been a growing body of case law from French courts. Therefore, when performing French legal research, examining case law is a required step.

There are several areas to become familiar with when looking at French case law, including the jurisdiction (see below) of various courts (see below), information about those courts and the codes (see below) related to legal procedure and court organization.


Jurisdiction of courts in France is divided between l’ordre administratif, or administrative courts, and l’ordre judicaire, or ordinary courts. L’ordre administratif courts, part of the executive branch of government, handle administrative disputes. L’ordre judicaire courts, decide both civil and criminal cases, unless the state, a state employee or a corporation is involved. If so, the case proceeds to l’ordre administratif.

L’ordre judicaire courts are broken down into the tribunal d’instance and the tribunal de grande instance which both handle civil cases; and the tribunal de police and, for more serious cases, tribunal correctionnel, which have jurisdiction over criminal cases.

Appeals for all cases are heard by the cour d’appel, with criminal cases refered by the cour d’appel to the cour d’assises.

The court of last resort for l’ordre judicaire is the cour de cassation, and for l’ordre administratif, it is the Conseil d’État.

To resolve any conflicts over the jurisdiction of these two sets of courts, there is the tribunal des conflicts, which, along with the Conseil constitutionnel, lies outside of the adminstratif/judicaire division.

For a more detailed look at how the court system is structured, refer to: A chart of jurisdiction of French courts

French Courts

As almost all French case reports are produced by commercial publishers, not many decisions are available full-text on the Internet. However, information about the following courts and the French judicial system is available on the Internet.


Keep in mind the other sources of French case law.

Court System

Codes of Procedure and Court Organization

Also, see the Codes section of this European legal Encyclopedia for additional sources of French procedural codes.

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