First instance courts
Juge de Proximitï¿½
Tribunal de police
They judge contraventions committed by
adults. In the case of minor contraventions, such as many
traffic offenses, suspected offenders are offered the
possibility of either admitting to the offense and paying a set
fine (amende forfaitaire) or going to court. The court may then
find the suspect innocent or guilty; but if guilty, they risk
higher fines than the forfaitaire.
They judge dï¿½lits committed by adults.
The Cour d'Assises ("Assize Courts")
in France are the courts that judge people accused of felonies
("crimes" as known by French law), and one of the few to be
composed of a popular jury. According to French law, a felony is
an act for which one can be condemned to more than 10 years of
The Assize Court sits on an ad hoc basis (not a permanent
court). Its decisions are permanent and cannot be brought for
appeal. The Cour d'Assises is chaired by a senior judge called
the president of the court. It has 9 jurors plus 3 professional
judges on first instance, and 12 jurors plus 3 professional
judges on appeal. List of possible jurors are drawn at random
from the electoral rolls, but the prosecution and the defense
can refuse some jurors (without having to bring any
justification They are the only
courts to be composed of juries. Extraordinary Cours d'Assises
Felonies committed by teenagers older than 16 years old are
judged by a special children Cour d'Assises (Cour d'Assises des
Mineurs). Felonies related to terrorism or illegal drug trade
are also judged by a special Cour d'Assises, which do not
include a popular jury. The court consists of seven professional
judges on first instance and nine professional judges on appeal.
Tribunal pour enfants
They judge contraventions and dï¿½lits
committed by minors. Defendants are tried by one judge,
Cour d'assises des mineurs
They judge crimes committed by minors.
Court of Cassation
The Court of Cassation ( Cour de
cassation ) is the court of last resort in France. It has its
seat in the Palais de Justice of Paris. The Court judges final
appeals with respect to the "normal" system of justice,
excluding cases of administrative justice, which go before the
Cour administrative d'appel
In France, the Conseil d'ï¿½tat
(English: Council of State) is an organ of the French national
government. Its functions include assisting the executive with
legal advice and being the supreme court for administrative
justice. Its members are (for the most part) high level jurists.
Tribunal des conflits
The Tribunal des conflits handles
conflicts between the civil system of justice and the
administrative system of justice. There are two kinds of
conflicts: Positive conflict: both systems consider themselves
competent for the same case. Negative conflict: both systems
consider that the other system is competent for the case,
resulting in a denial of justice. In both cases, the tribunal
des conflits will render final judgment on which system is
Cour des Comptes
Accounts", with national competency, or the chambres rï¿½gionales
des comptes, "Regional chambers of Accounts", with regional
competency) have functions related to the possible misuse
of public funds and, in some rare instances, of private funds.
Their existence is justified by Article 15 of the 1789
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which
specifies that citizens have the right to demand from any public
agent an account of his or her activities. Their workings are
defined by the Code des juridictions financiï¿½res.
Conseil de prud'hommes
These judge cases opposing employees and employers (apart from
cases devoted to administrative courts, see below). They are
paritaires, with equal numbers of representatives from
employers' unions and employees' unions.
Tribunal paritaire des baux
These judge cases arising from long-term leases of agricultural
Tribunal de Sï¿½curitï¿½
lawsuits involving state benefits.
Tribunal de commerce
lawsuits involving businesses or companies.
Correctional Courts have jurisdiction over offenses which can
incur a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.
Police Courts have jurisdiction over violations of the law that
incur a punishment of less than 2 months imprisonment and a
maximum fine of 25,000 francs.
Chamber of Correctional Appeals.
The Chamber of Correctional Appeals hears appeals of decisions
brought to it by the Police and Correctional Courts.
Court of Appeal.
The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeal oversees the
application of law in all courts. It verifies judicial decisions
to ensure that the application of the law and the resulting
sentences are sound, but does not actually hear any cases. Its
judges determine the appropriate application of the law in a
case, but do not draw any conclusions as to the facts of the
Overview of the French Legal System:
The legal system
of France, abides by the principal of unity of the civil and criminal
justice system, which means that the same court can hear both
criminal and civil cases. The French legal system distinguishes
between civil and criminal justice. Civil law applies to
dealings between private individuals (in personal matters or
matters of property). In civil actions, plaintiffs may receive
damages, but neither fines nor imprisonment may be imposed.
Civil actions are judged by the tribunaux dï¿½instance (tribunals)
and the appeal courts. Hearings are public, except in some
special cases such as divorce hearings and legal recognition of
children. Criminal law ensures that laws are enforced. Cases may
be heard in the tribunals or in the appeal courts. The tribunals
include:- police tribunals for petty offences, which can impose
fines or prison sentences of up to two months; tribunaux
correctionnels for crimes such as unarmed robbery or fraud, for
which penalties range from community service to a ten-year
prison sentence; the cours dï¿½assises (assizes) for serious
crimes such as armed robbery and murder, for which sentences of
up to thirty yearsï¿½ imprisonment may be imposed. The appeal
courts may re-examine the verdicts of tribunals. Hearings are
public, except in the juvenile courts.
France Judiciary and Police: Judges are recruited and must
compete for entry after 2 years of training at the National
School of Magistrature. Police personnel are recruited on a
competitive basis. Training is given in specialized schools.
Police recruits attend the Saint-Cyr School at Mont d'Or for 10
months, Inspectors attend the Canet-Cluse School for 6 months,
and peace agents attend the Superior School for 6 months. The
core of the legal system is a body of civil servants, the
magistrates. These may be divided into two groups. (1) sitting
magistrates, whose task is to deliver verdicts. They act as
judges and presiding judges in the various tribunals. Examining
judges are selected from this group. These magistrates are
assisted by lawyers who advise persons coming into contact with
the legal system, assist them and defend them in court. (2)
standing magistrates or Prosecution (le parquet). Their task is
to defend public order and demand that the Law be enforced in
the name of society as a whole and of the State. This group
consists of public prosecutors, counsels for the prosecution and
deputy public prosecutors. They are assisted by clerks, who note
verdicts and sentences, and ushers, who see that they are
carried out. Magistrates are trained and selected at the
national school for magistrates (Ecole nationale de la
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