Legal system in France
France uses a civil law system; that is, law arises primarily from written statutes; judges are not to make law, but merely to interpret it (though the amount of judge interpretation in certain areas makes it equivalent to case law).
The Conseil d'État sits in the Palais Royal
Many fundamental principles of French Law were laid in the Napoleonic Codes. Basic principles of the rule of law were laid in the Napoleonic Code: laws can only address the future and not the past (ex post facto laws are prohibited); to be applicable, laws must have been officially published.
In agreement with the principles of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the ...view middle of the document...
France doesn’t have a jury system (abolished in 1941) but a mixed tribunal made up of six lay judges and three professional judges, with convictions decided by a two-thirds majority.
French law provides for a separate judicial branch with an independent judiciary which does not answer to or is directly controlled by the other two branches of government. France has a civil law legal system, the basis of which is codified law; however, case law plays a significant role in the determination of the courts. The most distinctive feature of the French judicial system is that it is divided into judicial and administrative streams.
The judicial stream of courts adjudicates civil and criminal cases. The judicial court stream consists of inferior courts, intermediate appellate courts, and the French Supreme Court.
Judges are government employees but are granted special statutory protection from the executive. Judges have security of tenure and may not be promoted (or demoted) without their consent. Their careers are overseen by the Judicial Council of France.
The public prosecutors, on the other hand, takes order from the Minister of Justice. In the past, this has bred suspicion of undue political pressure to dismiss suits or claims against government officials charged with corruption, and the status of public prosecutors and their ties to government are frequently topics of debate.
Trial by jury is available only for severe criminal cases, which are the jurisdiction of the Courts of Assizes. A full Court is made up of a 3-judge panel and a petty jury of 9 jurors (vs. 12 jurors on appeal), who, together, render verdicts, and if a conviction is handed down, also determine a sentence. Jurors are selected at random from eligible voters.
In most other courts, judges are professional, except that the criminal court for minors is composed of one professional and two lay judges. Also, several specialty courts of original jurisdiction are sat by judges who are elected into office. For instance, labor tribunals are staffed with an equal number of magistrates from employers' unions and employees' unions. The same applies to land estate tribunals.
Pre-trial proceedings are inquisitorial by nature, but open court proceedings are adversarial. The burden of proof in criminal proceedings is on the prosecution, and the accused is constitutionally presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Courts of administrative law adjudicate on claims and suits against government offices and agencies. The administrative stream is made up of administrative courts, courts of administrative appeal, and the Council of State as the court of last resort.
The Council of State hears cases against executive branch decisions and has the power to quash or set aside executive-issued statutory instruments such as orders and regulations when they violate constitutional law, enacted legislation, or codified law.
Court proceedings mostly involve written hearings and are inquisitorial, with...