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The French Legal System

A short guide on French Courts

Updated on Monday 18th April 2016

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The French legal system is based on civil law and its roots can be traced back to the Roman law and the Civil Code drafted in 1804 by Napoleon I. The French judicial system is divided between inferior courts, intermediate appellate courts and courts of last resort. Our French lawyers can provide detailed information about specific laws and regulations and which court you should address, according to specific legal issues.
Ordinary courts in France handle criminal and civil litigation, while administrative courts handle complaints. Ordinary courts in France can have minor jurisdiction (the Police Court or the Civil Court) and major jurisdiction (the Criminal Court or Civil Court) or specialized jurisdiction (like the Labour Court).

Judicial organization in France

In the judicial branch, civil courts in France settle private disputes that arise between one or more individuals, such as divorce in France, inheritance rights, property rights. Criminal courts deal with criminal offences in France.
District courts in France are the first degree of jurisdiction (or minor jurisdiction) and they hear civil cases involving personal property claims less than 10,000 euro. The Police Court handles minor criminal offenses, contraventions, minor assaults or breaches of peace. Any claims that have a value higher than 10,000 euro are handled by a Regional Court.
Regional courts in France also have jurisdiction over divorce and paternity proof. Specialty first degree courts in France include juvenile courts, labour courts, commercial courts and agricultural and land tribunals. The assize court in France deals with serious crimes, while criminal courts have jurisdiction for intermediate offences (with a sentence of maximum ten years).
The courts of second instance in France hear appeals already issued by the courts of first instance. These courts specialize in all legal issues, including civil, social, commercial or criminal cases.
The Court of Cassation is the last degree court or the highest court in the French legal system. It is located in the Hall of Justice in Paris and it succeeds the Tribunal of Cassation dating back to 1790. The Court of Cassation does not judge cases, but verifies whether or not the applicable laws have been property enforced by the inferior courts.
Administrative courts in France judge administrative litigations. These courts settle disputed between public authorities and state owned companies or between public authorities and citizens. There are 35 administrative courts in France.
Our French lawyers can legally represent you, if you want to settle legal disputes in France. Our French law firm can also provide other legal services, including alternative methods for conflict resolution, like arbitration



  • Tiffani 2015-03-02

    Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I loved this article. It was practical. Keep on posting!

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