French Court System

The French court system is a double pyramid structure. There are two separate orders: administrative courts and judicial courts. Each order has a pyramid structure, with a single court at the top and various courts at the base. Litigants displeased with a court decision can seek a review before the next court up in the hierarchy. In each order, a single court of last instance ensures that the lower courts interpret the law in the same way. The administrative courts settle disputes between users and public authorities.

•The Conseil d’Etat hears cases in first and last instance. It is both adviser to the government and the supreme administrative court. •The courts with general competence are the administrative courts, administrative appeal courts and the Conseil d’Etat (as a jurisdiction). •Administrative courts with special competence are the financial courts (Court of Auditors, Regional Courts of Auditors, Court of Budget and Financial Discipline) and various other tribunals like the disciplinary bodies of professional orders.

The judicial courts settle disputes between persons and sanction offences against persons, property and society. There are three categories of judicial court: •the courts of first instance: – the civil courts: district courts, regional courts, commercial courts, employment tribunals, agricultural land tribunals, social security tribunals; – the criminal courts: . ordinary courts: police courts, regional criminal courts, assize courts; . specialised courts: juvenile courts, military courts, political courts and the maritime criminal court;

– local courts, created by Act 2002-1138 of 9 September 2002 to meet the need to make justice more accessible, swifter and capable of dealing more appropriately with small claims and minor offences. Local courts have lay judges; •the courts of second instance: the appeal courts; •the supreme court: the Court of Cassation, responsible for ensuring compliance with the rules of law applied by lower courts. It judges the form and not the merits, unlike the courts of first and second instance, which judge the facts.