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Untitled (2003)[edit]

There were two inacuracies : The Cour de cassation is not the only court of last resort (no court in France has universal juridiction), and the cours d'appel do not seat in each departement. I beefed up the article to tell about other court of last resort (now Cour de cassation might not be the best title). I believe that what I wrote is correct, but law is not my trade. If something is unclear because of my unorthodox english, just ask on this page, I will try to help. Didup 20:30 27 May 2003 (UTC)

I can't write it in English : "La Cour de cassation juge la forme et non le fond"

The Cour de cassation breaks ("casse" -> cassation) a decision it's not a second appeal. This court will judge if law was respected in the "Cour d'appel" most of the decisions are relative to the respect of procedure and will not "drastically change the way in which the Civil code or other statutes are interpreted". But a decision can also consider that the Code Civil (for instance) was misinterpreted (thus the first cour d'appel didn't respect the law), in that case other courts should apply the interpretation given by the Cour de cassation if they don't the risk to see their decisons broken is obviously very high. Ericd 11:00, 19 Sep 2003 (UTC)

For "La Cour de cassation juge la forme et non le fond",it could be "The Cour de cassation judge form and not substance". Maybe not the best translation possible, but I hope it make sense. It is a common saying. Fond (substance) means mostly facts here (that is what "le juge du fond" means in the Court's decisions, the judge that states the facts of the case, that is the lower court, and the Cour de cassation sticks to its findings). Then "form" might be somewhat weak, as it suggests procedure only, while it should means both procedure and substantive law. Indeed, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen states that "The law is the overt expression of the general will" (where law means parliament made law). As a consequence, the traditional doctrine is that judge should have no part in it (the current doctrine if there is such a thing seems to be much more willing to recognize that judges do create rules). It is true that procedure is the basis for most of the Court's decisions. Moreover, the Cours d'assises decisions, which get much attention, contains no reasoning, so they will not be annuled for reason of substantive law (maybe they could if the sentence was beyond what the law allows, I do not know if such a thing ever happended).

However, the primary duty of the Court is to ensure a uniform interpretation of the law. And however comprensive the law codes might be, there are gaps that the court must fill, sometimes creatively. A famous and recent exemple is its 2000 ruling on the so called question of wrongful birth, the Perruche decision (BTW, it was the last time the Court was really in the news, so it is rather uncommon). The question was whether a child born with severe handicaps, after a medical analysis failed to diagnoses rubella in his then pregnant mother, could sue for damages. His parents had been awared damages, but they had also sued on their child's behalf and the Cour d'appel (Paris) had denied damages there. There is no know medical treatment that would have permitted, following a proper diagnosis, to avoid or limit his handicap, a proper diagnosis would only have allowed his mother to choose abortion. What is called the "visa", the law that the court names to ground its decisions is a very thin basis. It consists in articles 1165 and 1382 in the Civil Code, which states

  • Art. 1165: Les conventions n'ont d'effet qu'entre les parties contractantes ; elles ne nuisent point aux tiers, et elles ne lui profitent que dans le cas prévu par l'article 1121 .
  • Art. 1382: Tout fait quelconque de l'homme, qui cause à autrui un dommage, oblige celui par la faute duquel il est arrivé, à le réparer.

In english, that might sound like (improvements welcomed)

  • Art 1165: Contracts have effects only between the parties to the contract. They do no harm to others, and profit them only as stated in article 1121 (1121 is irrelevant in this case)
  • Art 1382: Anyone who causes a tort to someone else must make good of it.

There is nothing obvious for or against the ruling in this. The decision contains virtually no reasoning (not unusual that). The court the case was first remanded to (Orléans) resisted the decision, which the Court stated again in assemblée plenière. Most doctrinal writers opposed the decisions too. It caused some upheaval, and the parliament quickly made a law to settle the question, voiding the court decision for the future ('no one may call being born a tort').

This is just an example maybe an extreme one, to show that the court does not merely correct errors. I agree with you however that "drastically changes" sounds a bit strong, particularly if one compares with what the US supreme court does (Perruche is not Roe v. Wade). Didup 00:08, 24 Sep 2003 (UTC)

I think "forme" refers more to structure (skeleton) and "fond" is more like basis; the c.d.c. has an adjectival power that effects the Code Civil, it is the Code Civil that works on individual cases through the lower courts. I don't think it really translates well into English. I vaguely remember that when we discussed this famous saying in our Philosophy of Law class at McGill that the focus was on how the c.d.c. with the swift action of its pen could make drastic changes to the law, but had no power to effect individual cases, that must be applied by the courts below (hence the "breaking" of the judgment that comes before it, it does not reverse a judgment as is the common practice in most common law appellate courts). Does that help? Alex756 07:12, 25 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Big problem ! It seems there is also a Belgian Cour de Cassation. Ericd 01:18, 29 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Actually most francophone countries that have civil law systems once based on French colonialism have a Cour de cassation (I think there is already one african country linked to this page like that). I don't think that is a big problem, just write another paragraph about the Belgian court differences. Alex756 02:00, 29 Sep 2003 (UTC)

I don't know anything about the Belgian Cour... While in african countries it must be more or less the same the Belgian system can be different and for NPOV we should also include the Flemmish name... I've no idea about this... Is there a Belgian here ? Ericd 02:22, 29 Sep 2003 (UTC)

I've just asked one. Alex756 05:03, 29 Sep 2003 (UTC)
His answer: "Hof van Cassatie". Alex756 22:36, 29 Sep 2003 (UTC)


"The Prosecutor is a magistrate"

  • I think English "magistrate" is not an appropriate translation for French "magistrat": if I understand well, magistrates in English-speaking countries are junior judges, whereas in France magistrats are full-time judges (excluding e.g. members of labour courts) as well as public prosecutors (in general they are graduates of the Ecole de la magistrature)

(in common language, in a wider sense, magistrat refers also to the President of the Republic and to mayors, i.e. people holding high public office). Magistrats du parquet are not granted by statute the same independence as magistrats du siège (judges).

  • The members of the parquet of the Cour de cassation are called "prosecutors" in the article (and in the Ministère de la justice site), but this name is misleading as they don't "prosecute" in the criminal cassation procedure (they've got more or less the same role as commissaires du gouvernement of administrative courts; they're also heard in all civil cassation cases, whereas the ministère public seldom plays a role in civil procedure at first instance and appeal levels). See e.g. the Kress judgement of the ECHR for a comparison with their administrative and European counterparts. Apokrif 10:43, 18 Mar 2005 (UTC)
See http://groups.google.com/group/sci.lang.translation/msg/3feab18a5ea8bb13 Apokrif 17:15, 22 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]

"Appeals" to the European Court of Human Rights[edit]

In French legal language, in this case, we don't say "appeal" (nor "pourvoi en cassation") to the ECHR: the ECHR cannot revert the Court de cassation judgment, contrary to what one ordinary means in French by procedure of "appel" or "cassation". Is this sentence correct in English (perhaps one says "appeal" in English each time a higher court reviews a case, whether it can revert the lower court's judgment or not)? Apokrif 20:02, 23 March 2006 (UTC)[reply]

A higher court can always reverse a lower courts judgement in England. That is the only reason for hearing the same case again in a higher court.

The ECHR is not a higher court, but a different court.

Why can the ECHR not reverse a French Court of Cassation judgement?

Because the European Convention does not give to this court the power of reversing judgments by national courts (or any other decisions by national authorities). It's only powers are saying that a state infringed such provision of the Convention, and saying that this state is to pay a given sum to the applicant (and also, in some cases, giving to a state an injunction to stop doing something, like extraditing the applicant to another country, until the Court is sure this extradition does not infringe the Convention). Strictly speaking, the ECHR does not judge the same case as the national courts did: for instance, if Foo was hurt in a traffic accident with Bar, Foo can sue Bar in a French civil court, on the basis of French tort law. Whatever the results of the trial, if Foo thinks the trial alsted too long or that he was not granted a fair trial because he didn't have access to some relevant documents, he can sue the French government (not Bar) in the ECHR, on the basis of the European convention (French tort law becomes irrelevant at this step).

Is the European Comvention on Human Rights not incorporated into French law? Jameswilson 22:49, 20 April 2006 (UTC)[reply]

It is. This only means that French courts abide by this Convention; it they don't, the European court can only grant financial compensation. However, in the case of criminal judgments which the European court says do not comply with article 6, a new trial may be granted by the Commission de réexamen des condamnations pénales (which is a French authority, has nothing to do with the Strasbourg Court). Apokrif 17:13, 22 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]

I changed the passage in the article mentioning the European Court of Human Rights. It is totally wrong to talk about an "appeal" to the ECHR, whether in English or in French. See FAQ for applicants to the ECHR. --Mathew5000 06:36, 8 July 2006 (UTC)[reply]

The decisions of the court are extremely brief[edit]

The decisions of the court are extremely brief, citing the facts of the case, the relevant codal or statutory texts and a statement of the decision; there is no ratio or reasoning that is stated in the judgment to guide in the legal interpretation of the decision as is common in most common law jursidictions. In the case of the Council of State, to understand the reasoning of judges, it is useful to read the speech of the Commissaire du Gouvernement (if it has been published): perhaps we should add it is the same, in the case of the Court of Cassation, for the report (by a judge of the panel) or the speech of the avocat général. Apokrif 17:00, 22 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]


"Neither of these courts has the power of judicial review over statute law – essentially, laws voted by the Parliament (except in case of unconventionality<!-- what is "unconventionality" supposed to mean here? It is not at all clear. -->).""

Here "Unconventionality" means (or is intended to mean) a breach of an international convention. Apokrif 16:29, 10 July 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Oh, I see. In English the word "unconventional" has the primary meaning "odd" or "unusual", so the word "unconventionality" would not be used to refer to a violation of an international convention/treaty. I suppose an example would be that if a litigant argued that a provision of the Civil Code is inconsistent with the ECHR? Then what would happen if the Cour de cassation agreed with the litigant? Would the provision of the Civil Code be declared to be of no force or effect? Or would only that particular litigant benefit from the court's decision? --Mathew5000 23:14, 10 July 2006 (UTC)[reply]
Any court can say, in a particular case, that an article of the Civil code, or a part of this article (or any other law, with the exception of the Constitution and some other laws which have more or less the same value as the Constitution) should not be applied; so the court has to find relevant law somewhere else to decide on the case (as if this provitision didn't exist). A court can rule only in a particular case (see fr:Arrêt de règlement), but if the Court of cassation (or the Council of state), or even the ECHR or the European court of justice, thinks the French law is invalid, it is very likely that other (lower) courts will follow their advice (unless they want that all their judgments are cancelled by an upper court). But, contrary to what the Constitutional council does when it says that a law infringes the constitution (the law is not promulgated in this case), the invalid law still exists in theory. 22:21, 11 July 2006 (UTC)Apokrif
So essentially the courts will decline to apply a statututory provision found to violate an international convention, although the provision would still remain on the books. Is that right? And is that true of any treaty that binds France at international law (for example, let's say some environmental treaty), or only human rights conventions? --Mathew5000 23:40, 11 July 2006 (UTC)[reply]
AFAIK there is no difference related to the nature of the treaty, see article 55 of the Constitution: http://www.assemblee-nat.fr/english/8ab.asp (although it happens that a court says that the treaty is only a commitment between states, without having a direct effect on citizens, who in this case cannot refer to the treaty in court proceedings, and can only wait for a law enforcing the treaty.) I think French judgments have what is called "persuasive authority" in US law (in theory a court is not bound by what an other court said in an unrelated case). Apokrif 12:26, 12 July 2006 (UTC)[reply]
The passage in the article currently reads "Neither of these courts has the power of judicial review over statute law – essentially, laws voted by the Parliament (except in case of unconventionality). Another body, the Constitutional Council, has that power..." As I said, the term "unconventionality" generally has a different meaning in English. So I propose the following change: "Neither of these courts has the power to strike down a statute passed by the French parliament. They will, however, refuse to apply any statutory provision they consider inconsistent with France's international treaty obligations. Another body has the power to invalidate laws that are inconsistent with the Constitution of France: the Constitutional Council. It is not a court and does not hear cases..." Is that a good way to word it?. --Mathew5000 23:40, 11 July 2006 (UTC)[reply]
I think your English is better than mine, so you should decide. I find the sentence "It is not a court and does not hear cases" ambiguous (it depends on what you mean by "court" and "case"). The question of whether the Constitutional Council is a juridiction (court) is disputed in France ( François Luchaire, « Le Conseil constitutionnel est-il une juridiction ? », Revue du droit public et de la science politique en France et à l'étranger (RDP), janvier-juin 1979 (volume 1), pp. 27-52). Apokrif 12:26, 12 July 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Supreme court[edit]

Since there is no court resembling the USA Supreme court in France, I am convinced it is not useful to nickname the "Cour de cassation" Supreme Court in the whole article. I deleted this throughout the text. Just for reference - but the article already says it - the "Cour de cassation" has to obey a decision by the "Tribunal des conflits". It has no competence over matters relating to the action of administrations, to national polls. One could say that there are three jurisdictions which are, in their domain only, supreme courtS. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:13, 30 April 2009 (UTC)[reply]

It is important to realize that "supreme court" is really short for "supreme court of appeal", which clearly refers to the same idea as "cassation", that is, final appeal, last resort, etc. Your confusion probably comes from the fact that you think the U.S. supreme court hears administrative appeals, which it does not; it is ONLY a judicial court. In any case, in most English-speaking countries, while there is no distinct administrative stream and judicial stream of courts, "supreme" does not necessarily imply that it sits over top BOTH streams, just over one. The term "supreme court" is also used virtually everywhere English is spoken, including now England, and they all vary on what kinds of matters for which they have jurisdiction and on what basis they hear appeals, meaning that "supreme court" is elastic enough as a term to apply easily to a cour de cassation, no matter what your gripe may be. I do not see in what real way it is not a supreme court.
Furthermore, the "tribunal de conflits" is not a court, but rather a tribunal, which are two completely different things in English (as opposed to French, where tribunal is a lower court and cour is a higher court), and does not adjudicate cases, but rather solves jurisdictional disputes. The top-most courts of any stream are known as courts of last resort or courts of final appeal, not supreme courts. There is, once again, no chance of confusion for an English speaker. I think this is a case of a common French phenomenon found all over Wikipedia in which a French body, entity, or what have you is deliberately retained in French because it is wrongly believed to be unique somehow. Consider the Council of State which is still obstinately retained as the "Conseil d'Etat", despite the fact many other countries have Councils of State, as if to imply the French one is in no way comparable to those of other countries, which, of course, is not true.
Given what seems to be a terminological issue, I've chosen to undo your edits.
Flibjib8 (talk) 21:45, 6 May 2009 (UTC)[reply]
I beg to differ ;-) with the terminological nature of this issue. Let me explain my point of view, which is shared by the administrative branch of the judiciary. The problem with translating the "Cour de cassation" as "the Supreme court" is not that it skips the French name and its uniqueness - nobody cares about that -, but that it suggests to the reader that there is only one supreme court, because of the use of both "the" and the word "supreme" as it is often understood (on top of everything). It is wrong to suggest this since, in their respects, the "Cour de cassation", "Conseil d'Etat", "Conseil constitutionnel", "Haute cour de justice" are all courts of last resort (with the exception of a dispute under the "Tribunal des conflits") independent in relation to one another.
Besides, it seems to me that the use of the word "Supreme court" conjures the image of a jurisdiction able to oppose the executive or legislative power on a political issue, as in the US. French "Cour de cassation" has not the same extent of power and is quite restricted in its field. But if you think, "supreme court" has a meaning flexible enough in English not to induce this mistake, it's OK for me.
I would suggest that, somehow, this notion of "a" supreme court among other ones of the same level is made clear in the title and the text. It could be that the best way to do that is not to translate "Cour de cassation" as "supreme court" but as something like Court of quashing, although this name is not used in English. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:31, 19 May 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Fragile svg image label language[edit]

is this still in English?

The svg image File:Judiciary of France.svg in this article (and right) is a multilingual svg image, which at this writing is being properly displayed in English, but it may spontaneously flip one day into French due to a bug in MW software (T337199). For details, please see this discussion. Mathglot (talk) 22:35, 12 September 2023 (UTC)[reply]