Litigation in France

Litigation in France

Criminal litigation is dealt with very briefly on the ‘criminal law’ page and thus only civil litigation is (equally briefly) examined here.

France has a civil law, as opposed to a common-law, system and the procedure before the French Courts is essentially carried out by the parties filing, through their lawyers, written submissions.

Whatever some French lawyers may claim, oral advocacy plays a relatively minor role in civil litigation.

Indeed, the Courts virtually never hand down a decision on the day of the trial hearing preferring instead to reserve judgement until a number of weeks if not months after the hearing, when a decision in writing is given.

There are no juries whatsoever before the civil courts and large scale damages are virtually unheard of.

It is not possible to bring a class action before the French civil courts and oral cross-examination of witnesses does not exist either.

For a matter to come to trial at first instance can take some two years and there is often a similar delay if the decision is subject to an appeal.

The lower district Court of first instance is called the Tribunal d’Instance (TI), and the higher district Court of first instance is called the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI).

French Lawyers have a monopoly on appearing before the latter and claimants may not usually appear in person before the TGI.

There is also a separate Commercial Court of first instance known as the Tribunal de Commerce.

Appeals against decisions of the above are heard by the regional Court of Appeal and further appeals (solely on points of law) are dealt with by the Cour de Cassation in Paris, France’s supreme civil court.