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Researching French Law 2007

Researching French Law 2007

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Published by Stéphane Cottin
Globalex guide on the best practices in researching French Law for English-speaking persons. Version 3, 2007
Globalex guide on the best practices in researching French Law for English-speaking persons. Version 3, 2007

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Published by: Stéphane Cottin on Aug 22, 2009
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Hauser Global Law School Program, New York University School of Law
Mirela Roznovschi,Editor
Researching French Law
By St\u00e9phane Cottin and J\u00e9r\u00f4me Rabenou
3rd ed. published December 2007 on
http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/France1.htm
St\u00e9phane Cottin is the chief registrar of the Constitutional Council of France. Formerly, he was the creator of

the documentation office, then of the website of the institution. He teaches legal research to both students in the Institut d'\u00e9tudes politiques de Paris (Sciences-Po) and professionals with the Association of French Documentation Specialists (ADBS). He received an LL.M from Lille II University, a master's degree in Public Law, and a master in Library Science from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques of Paris (Sciences Po Paris). He has published severalart icl es in French and in English in law reviews, and several books, including a guide, in French, 'Petit guide d'acc\u00e8s \u00e0 l'information juridique fran\u00e7aise.

J\u00e9r\u00f4me Rabenou has been the the internet master of the French Constitutional Council for ten years. He now
works for the Prime Minister Information Systems Security department. He created the first French legal
newsgroup (news:fr.misc.droit),w ebsit e, andma il ing-l ist. He received an LL.M in business law from the
University Paris-XIII.

Table of Contents
Basic Structure of the French Legal System........................................................................................2

Government Structure.....................................................................................................................................................2 Types of Legislation........................................................................................................................................................2 The Court System...........................................................................................................................................................2

Parliament.............................................................................................................................................2
Official Websites..................................................................................................................................3
Ministries (departments).................................................................................................................................................3

Local Communities..............................................................................................................................3 Other (Semi) Government Institutions and Independent Administrative Authorities..........................4 Legislation............................................................................................................................................4

(French)...........................................................................................................................................................................4
(English Translations).....................................................................................................................................................5
Case Law..............................................................................................................................................5
(French)...........................................................................................................................................................................5
(EnglishTranslations)......................................................................................................................................................5

Law Faculties........................................................................................................................................6 Law Libraries........................................................................................................................................6 Literature..............................................................................................................................................6

General............................................................................................................................................................................6 Business Law..................................................................................................................................................................6 Civil Law........................................................................................................................................................................6 Constitutional and Administrative Law..........................................................................................................................6 Criminal Law..................................................................................................................................................................7 Law Dictionaries.............................................................................................................................................................7

Citation.................................................................................................................................................7 Discussion Lists and Blogs...................................................................................................................7 Miscellaneous Legal Sites....................................................................................................................8

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Basic Structure of the French Legal System
The French Republic (la R\u00e9publique Fran\u00e7aise) is ruled by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic (October
4th, 1958). A more detailed description of the French legal system is given by Claire Germain in herFrench
Law Guide, or the English version of the instruction manual of the official website Legifrance, French public
service f the dissemination of the Law on the Internet : "About Law".
Government Structure

France is a centralized country ruled by a semi-presidential system, called 'rationalized parlamentarism'. The Head of the State (le Pr\u00e9sident de la R\u00e9publique, Nicolas Sarkozy, elected in may 2007) is elected by direct universal suffrage every 5 years (revision of the Constitution in September 2000). The President designates a

Prime minister from the parliamentary majority. Parliament shall comprise the National Assembly
(Assembl\u00e9e nationale) and the Senate (S\u00e9nat). They both pass the Statutes (Lois).
For a more precise and accurate study, see the Final Report on the 22 April and 6 May 2007 Presidential
Election in France of the OSCE - ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights - Elections),
especially page 4 (Chapter III Background).
Types of Legislation

France is ruled by a strict hierarchy of norms. An overall norm is the Constitution (traditionally merged with declarations of rights of 1789 and 1946). Under this text, Parliament should pass the statutes (les Lois), with an internal hierarchy: institutional act (loi organique), ordinary act (loi ordinaire), and ordinance (ordonnance).

The executive power has the right to enact regulations (r\u00e8glements) which are calledd \u00e9crets (for Prime Minister and President of the Republic) andarr \u00eat \u00e9s (for the rest of the executive branch). Statutes and non- individual decrees have been numbered according to the form "99-1234" since 1945. Since 2000, cases are named according to the form "2000-1234". All Statutes and decrees, and the most importantarr \u00eat\u00e9s, are published in the official gazette "Journal officiel de la R\u00e9publique fran\u00e7aise, \u00e9dition lois et d\u00e9crets", and receive unique reference numbers (since 1987: a NOR for normalized). It might be useful for some databases. Since June 2004, French Law could also be published electronically. (See 'The Public Service of the

dissemination of the French Law on the Internet', Stephane Cottin, published in Review Acta Universitatis
Sibiu 2005 (1/2) )
The Court System

The French judicial system is historically strictly divided in two separate bodies: judiciary (ordinary) law and administrative law. At the top of the judiciary courts (concerning civil, trade, labor and criminal laws) there is a Supreme Court of Appeals or Cour de Cassation: 80 judges are appointed by the President of the Republic from nominations of the High Council of the Judiciary. For the record, there are also 35 courts of appeals, 181

tribunaux de grande instance, and 475 tribunaux d'instance (the lower level). At the top of the
administrative courts (concerning the litigations involving public sector), there is the Council of State or
Conseil d'Etat, with 8 cours administratives d'appel and 36 tribunaux administratifs.

The Constitutional Council, or Conseil Constitutionnel, is in charge of the constitutional review of the statutes before they are enacted (in abstracto control) and of the control of national elections (Parliament, President of the Republic, Referendum). The Constitutional Council consists of nine members: three members appointed by the president, three members appointed by the president of the National Assembly, and three appointed by the president of the Senate. In addition, former Presidents of the Republic are ex officio members of the Constitutional Council.

For a comprehensive presentation, see the website of the Justice Department.
Parliament
The French Bicameral Parliament, orParl ement, consists of the Senate, orS\u00e9n at, (331 seats - 304 for
metropolitan France, 15 for overseas departments and territories, and 12 for French nationals abroad;
2

members are indirectly elected by an electoral college to serve nine-year terms; elected by thirds every three years: a reform conducted from 2004 to 2011 will lead to a six-years term and a renewal by half every three years) and the National Assembly or Assembl\u00e9e Nationale (577 seats; members are elected under a single- member majoritarian system to a serve five-year term)

The "French Republic's number three assembly" can be found in the Conseil \u00e9conomique et Social.
Official Websites
\ue000Legifrance: Public Service of the dissemination of the Law. Contains the official gazette from 1990,
statutes and decrees from 1978, all the official codes (some of them are translated intoEngl ish and
Spanish), links toward other official sites. A pretty good presentation of the main lines of the French
Law is offered in English in this text : About the Law.
\ue000Service-Public: "Its design is focused on answering users' needs and on simplifying user's relations

with Government agencies and services. For now you have access in English to public sites (local, national, European, International organizations, Foreign states)". This website includes the guide "your rights and procedures" which informs - in French - the user about his rights and obligations and directs him to relevant organizations. It comprises 2,400 sheets grouped by subject and 1,500 answers to frequently asked questions.

\ue000Vie-Publique.fr: Official or governmental information for French citizens. Portal of all the public
policies.
Ministries (departments)
Several websites maintain lists of French ministries (department =mi ni st \u00e8re) and offer English access:

\ue000European Info Centre
\ue000Government Portal
\ue000Service-Public.fr (or directly at the same site)

Note that ministries are regulatory producers, and most of them give access to legal material in their own
areas of competence.
Find here some important departments with English Internet access:
\ue000Ministry for Economy, Finance and Industry- (English access for the Customs services)
\ue000Ministry for Foreign Affairs- (English access)
Local Communities

The General Directorate of Local Authorities -DG CL - belongs to the Ministry of Interior.
You can also find English access to some useful explanationsher e.
France is divided into several administrative levels ; the most important are:R\u00e9gi o n (22),D\u00e9part ement (96),

Canton (app. 4000), Commune (app. 37500). The 22 r\u00e9gions are Alsace, Aquitaine, Auvergne, Basse-

Normandie, Bourgogne, Bretagne, Centre, Champagne-Ardenne, Corse, Franche-Comt\u00e9, Haute-Normandie, Ile-de-France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin, Lorraine, Midi-Pyr\u00e9n\u00e9es, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, Picardie, Poitou-Charentes, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, and Rhone-Alpes. Metropolitan France is then subdivided into 96 departments. France counts also 4 overseas d\u00e9partements (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion), 7 overseas territorial collectivities with special status (Mayotte, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint-Barth\u00e9lemy, Saint-Martin, French Polynesia, Wallis & Futuna and New Caledonia).

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