Court of Cassation (France)
The French Supreme Court of Judicature is France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

's court of last resort having jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted legal body or to a political leader to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility...

 over all matters triable in the judicial stream but only scope of review to determine a miscarriage of justice or certify a question of law based solely on points of law. The Court is located in the Hall of Justice building in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...


The Supreme Court is the court of final appeal for civil and criminal matters. As a judicial court, it does not hear cases involving claims against administrators or public bodies which generally fall within the purview of administrative court
Administrative court
Greece, as a civil law country has administrative courts. The establishment of those courts can be found in article 94 of the Constitution of the Hellenic Republic 1975, as revised in 2001. The administrative courts are composed from districts Courts of First Instance, district Courts of Appeal and...

s, for which the Council of State acts as the supreme court of appeal. Nor does the Court adjudicate constitutional issues; instead, constitutional review lies solely with the Constitutional Council
Constitutional Council of France
The Constitutional Council is the highest constitutional authority in France. It was established by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic on 4 October 1958, and its duty is to ensure that the principles and rules of the constitution are upheld.Its main activity is to rule on whether proposed...

. Thus, France does not have one senior adjudicatory body but four (including the Jurisdictional Disputes Tribunal), and collectively, these four courts form the topmost tier of the court system.

The Supreme Court was established in 1790 under the name Tribunal de cassation during the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, and its original purpose was to act as a court of error with revisory jurisdiction over lower provincial prerogative court
Prerogative court
A prerogative court is a court through which the discretionary powers, privileges, and legal immunities reserved to the sovereign were exercised. In England in the 17th century a clash developed between these courts, representing the crown's authority, and common law courts. Prerogative courts...

s (Parlement
Parlements were regional legislative bodies in Ancien Régime France.The political institutions of the Parlement in Ancien Régime France developed out of the previous council of the king, the Conseil du roi or curia regis, and consequently had ancient and customary rights of consultation and...

). However, much about the Court continues the earlier Paris Parlement Court.


The Court is made up of justices, the Office of the Prosecutor, and an Administrative Office of Courts. In addition, a separate bar of specially certified barrister
A barrister is a member of one of the two classes of lawyer found in many common law jurisdictions with split legal professions. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions...

s exists for trying cases at the French Supreme Court.

Judges and divisions

Overall, the Court consists of nearly 85 trial judges (conseillers) and about 40 deputy judges (conseillers référendaires), each divided among six different divisions (chambres):
  • First Civil Division (première chambre civile) deals with family law, successions (wills), child custody, professional discipline, individual rights, contractual liability
  • Second Civil Division (deuxième chambre civile) handles divorce, civil liability (tort
    A tort, in common law jurisdictions, is a wrong that involves a breach of a civil duty owed to someone else. It is differentiated from a crime, which involves a breach of a duty owed to society in general...

    s), and electoral matters
  • Third Civil Division (troisième chambre civile) (or "Land Court") for immovable property (real estate), housing, city planning, leases, foreclosures
  • Commercial Division (chambre commerciale, financière et économique) handles companies, bankruptcy, business, banking and intellectual property
  • Labor Division (chambre sociale) handles labor disputes, worker compensation, and welfare
  • Criminal Division (chambre criminelle) deals with criminal cases

Each division is headed by a Presiding Justice referred to in French as a président, or President of Division. Over these presiding justices presides the Chief Justice
Chief Justice
The Chief Justice in many countries is the name for the presiding member of a Supreme Court in Commonwealth or other countries with an Anglo-Saxon justice system based on English common law, such as the Supreme Court of Canada, the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the Court of Final Appeal of...

 who bears the title of the premier président, or President of the Court. The Chief Justice is the highest-ranking judicial officer in the country and is responsible for administration of the Court and the discipline of justices. The current Chief Justice is Vincent Lamanda. The Court also includes 12 masters
Master (judiciary)
A Master is judicial officer found in the courts of England and in numerous other jurisdictions based on the common law tradition. A master's jurisdiction is generally confined to civil proceedings and is a subset of that of a judge. Masters are typically involved in hearing motions, case...

 (auditeurs), the lowest rank of justice, who are primarily concerned with administration.

There is, in addition to the abovementioned six divisions, a separate formation known as the Divisional Court (chambre mixte). The Divisional Court adjudicates where the subject matter of an appeal falls within the purview of multiple divisions. The Bench of the Divisional Court is sat by the Chief Justice and a number of other judges from at least three other divisions relevant to a given case. Any participating division is represented by its Presiding Justice and two puisne
Puisne is a legal term of art used mainly in British English meaning "inferior in rank." It is pronounced like the word puny, and the word, so spelled, has become an ordinary adjective meaning weak or undersized.The judges and barons of the common law courts at...


Finally, a Full Court
Full Court
A Full Court refers to a court consisting of a greater-than-normal number of judges. Thus, in relation to a court usually presided over by a single judge, a Full Court would comprise a bench of three judges; for a court which, like many appellate courts, normally comprises three judges, a Full...

 (Assemblée plénière) is called together, presided over by the Chief Justice or, if absent, by the most senior Presiding Justice. It is also sat by all divisional presiding justices and senior justices assisted by a puisne judge from each division. The Full Court is the highest level of the Court.

Office of the Prosecutor

The prosecution, or parquet
Parquet (legal)
The parquet is the office of the prosecution, in some countries, responsible for presenting legal cases at criminal trials against individuals or parties suspected of breaking the law....

, is headed by the Chief Prosecutor (procureur général). The Chief Prosecutor is a judicial officer, but does not actually prosecute cases; instead, his function is to advise the Court on how to proceed, analogous to the Commissioner-in-Council's role within the Council of State. Duties include filing originating motions to bring cases before the Court "in the name of the law" and bringing cases before the French Court of Justice (Cour de justice de la République), which tries government officials for crimes committed while in office. The Chief Prosecutor is assisted by 2 Chief Deputy Prosecutors (premiers avocats généraux) and a staff of about 22 deputy prosecutors (avocats généraux), and 2 assistant prosecutors (substituts).

Supreme Court Bar

Barristers (avocats), though not technically officers of the Court, play an integral role in the due dispensing of justice. Except for a few types of actions, advocate counsel in the form of a barrister is mandatory for any case heard at the Supreme Court or Council of State. Barristers with exclusive rights of audience and licensed to practice law in either senior court carry the title of avocat au Conseil d'État et à la Cour de Cassation, or avocats aux Conseils ("Counsel at Senior Court") for short. Licensure and admission to the Supreme Court Bar are particularly difficult, requiring special training and passing a notoriously stringent examination. Once admitted, bar members are empowered to advise litigants on whether their actions are justiciable, that is, issuable and exceeding de minimis
De minimis
De minimis is a Latin expression meaning about minimal things, normally in the locutions de minimis non curat praetor or de minimis non curat lex .In risk assessment it refers to a level of risk that is too small to be concerned with...

 requirements—an important service since the Supreme Court only hears appears on points of law and not issues of fact. Membership is restricted to 60 total positions and is considered a public office.


The Court's main purpose is to review lower court rulings on the grounds of legal or procedural error. As the highest court of law in France, it also has other duties. The court operates by discretionary review
Discretionary review
Discretionary review is the authority of appellate courts to decide which appeals they will consider from among the cases submitted to them. This offers the judiciary a filter on what types of cases are appealed, because judges have to consider in advance which cases will be accepted...

, meaning, it may choose which appeals it will consider from among all submitted cases. As a result, appeals to the Court are by leave not of right, that is, an appellent must obtain the Court's permission (leave) before an appeal can be considered.


The Court has inherent appellate jurisdiction for appeals (called pourvois en cassation) from a lower court (courts of appeal or, for certain types of small claims cases which are not appealable to courts of appeal, from a court of first instance). The Supreme Court has general jurisdiction for upholding or setting aside lower court rulings; if set aside, the ruling is said to be cassé (French for "set aside"), hence the French name of Cour de cassation, or "Quashing Court". The Court relies on strict appeal, or appeal stricto sensu, which is limited to reviewing the decision and the decision-making process on a point of law and may only allow the appeal in cases of serious error; fresh evidence is relatively unlikely to be admitted in such an appeal. The typical outcome of a successful appeal is setting aside of the lower court's decision and remittal for reconsideration.

Whereas an intermediate appellate court hears general appeals from a lower court grounded on issues of law and procedure as well as errors of fact and reasoning, the French Supreme Court only decides matters on points of law or procedure as applied in a case, not factual errors. Lower courts may petition the Supreme Court to issue an interlocutory
Interlocutory is a legal term which can refer to an order, sentence, decree, or judgment, given in an intermediate stage between the commencement and termination of a cause of action, used to provide a temporary or provisional decision on an issue...

 judgment during the proceedings on any new and complex point of law; any such declaration, however, is not a final or conclusive order.

Appeal procedure

A case is heard by a bench of 3 or 5 relevant divisional justices. For either civil or criminal appeals, the Bench is sat by 3 judges unless the Chief Justice or the divisional Presiding Justice orders a Full Bench of 5 judges. Furthermore, any one of the 3 judges originally assigned to the Bench may order it expanded to five. If the case falls in the legal areas handled by more than one division, the Chief Justice may order the Divisional Court, rather than a Bench, to consider the case.

The Supreme Court can affirm a decision from below by dismissing the appeal (rejet du pourvoi) or overturn or amend the decision by allowing the appeal (accueil du pourvoi). If it finds that the lower court erred, it sets aside the decision from below and remits the case with its opinion to a sister lower court for reconsideration (cassation avec renvoi). If only a portion of a ruling is overturned, it is called cassation partielle, or partial setting aside. Sometimes, the Court may overturn a lower court ruling and judge the case ex proprio motu without being petitioned (cassation sans renvoi), as long as the merits and facts of the case are on record.

When overturned, the case is remanded to a second appellate court, i.e., not the originating appellate court, and never with the same judges. The decision of the Bench or Divisional Court is not binding, and the appellate court has full discretion to decide the case, but the Supreme Court's ruling has persuasive authority. The appellate court's ruling may again be appealed to the Supreme Court. If so, the Full Court hears and judges the case. It may, again, uphold an earlier decision or reverse it and remand the case to another appellate court. In the latter case, the determination of the Full Court is binding; the facts, however, may be reviewed by the court retrying the case.

Published judgments are extremely brief, containing a statement of the case—citing relevant statutory authorities—and a summary of ruling. The ruling does not contain a ratio decidendi
Ratio decidendi
Ratio decidendi is a Latin phrase meaning "the reason" or "the rationale for the decision." The ratio decidendi is "[t]he point in a case which determines the judgment" or "the principle which the case establishes."...

 in the style of common-law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 jurisdictions. Instead, it is left to legal experts to explain the importance of rulings. The Court often drastically changes the way the Civil Code
Civil code
A civil code is a systematic collection of laws designed to comprehensively deal with the core areas of private law. A jurisdiction that has a civil code generally also has a code of civil procedure...

 or other statutory laws are interpreted. Legal digests, such as the Recueil Dalloz
Recueil Dalloz
The main French legal publisher Dalloz, founded by Désiré Dalloz and his brother Armand, has published commentary, cases and legislation in a series of bulletins referred to generally as Recueil Dalloz.* Recueil Dalloz ;...

, and treatises written by legal scholars analyze and explain rulings through precedents. Much of this information is available through on-line databases.

Unlike common-law jurisdictions, there is no doctrine of binding precedent (stare decisis
Stare decisis
Stare decisis is a legal principle by which judges are obliged to respect the precedents established by prior decisions...

) in France. Therefore, previous decisions of higher courts like the Supreme Court do not bind lower courts in the same hierarchy, though they are often followed and have persuasive authority. Instead, the French legal system subscribes to the legal doctrine of jurisprudence constante
Jurisprudence constante
Jurisprudence constante is a legal doctrine according to which a long series of previous decisions applying a particular rule of law is very important and may be determinative in subsequent cases...

according to which courts should follow a series of decisions that are in accord with each other and judges should rule on their own interpretation of the law.

Criminal appeals

Major felonies
A felony is a serious crime in the common law countries. The term originates from English common law where felonies were originally crimes which involved the confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods; other crimes were called misdemeanors...

 (indictable offence
Indictable offence
In many common law jurisdictions , an indictable offence is an offence which can only be tried on an indictment after a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is a prima facie case to answer or by a grand jury...

s), called crimes in French, are tried by jury in a county Court of Assizes
Cour d'assises
A French cour d'assises or Assize Court is a criminal trial court with original and appellate limited jurisdiction to hear cases involving defendants accused of major felonies or indictable offences, or crimes in French, and one of the few to be decided by jury trialUnder French law, a crime is any...

. In the past, their decisions were not open to appeal in an intermediate appellate court, and before 2001, could only be appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court would review the case on points of procedure and law only, and when handing down a reversal, which was uncommon except for capital punishment cases, vested a second Court of Assizes to retry the case. An argument in favor of this system was that allowing appeals to be tried by active judges after having been decided by a jury would in essence deny popular sovereignty. Since 2001, Assize court rulings may be appealed on points of fact to a Court of Assizes in another county, vested by the Supreme Court, and before a larger jury. The case is then fully retried. For procedural issues, appeals to the Supreme Court are still possible since Assize courts, which operate by jury trial, would not be competent to hear them.

Certified question
Certified question
In the law of the United States, a certified question is a formal request by one court to one of its sister courts, usually but not always in another jurisdiction, for an opinion on a question of law....


Where no appeal is made but the Government disagrees with the lower court's interpretation of the law, it may order the Chief Prosecutor to "lay an appeal before the Court in the interest of law" (former un pourvoi dans l'intérêt de la loi), i.e., appeal to certify a question of general public importance. The Chief Prosecutor may do so sua sponte
Sua sponte
In law, sua sponte describes an act of authority taken without formal prompting from another party. The term is usually applied to actions by a judge taken without a prior motion or request from the parties...

 or at the behest of the Court for both civil and criminal cases. The Court will then issue an advisory opinion
Advisory opinion
An advisory opinion is an opinion issued by a court that does not have the effect of adjudicating a specific legal case, but merely advises on the constitutionality or interpretation of a law. Some countries have procedures by which the executive or legislative branches may certify important...

 which has no bearing on the lower court's ruling since it was satisfactory to all parties involved and no motion was made to appeal. If the Government is dissatisfied with the law as stated by the courts, it may ask Parliament to rewrite the law, as long as no constitutional issue is involved.

Other duties

The Court publishes an annual report on the court system in France. The report includes a section with suggested changes to laws concerning the legal system including criminal procedure
Criminal procedure
Criminal procedure refers to the legal process for adjudicating claims that someone has violated criminal law.-Basic rights:Currently, in many countries with a democratic system and the rule of law, criminal procedure puts the burden of proof on the prosecution – that is, it is up to the...

. The Court awards damages
In law, damages is an award, typically of money, to be paid to a person as compensation for loss or injury; grammatically, it is a singular noun, not plural.- Compensatory damages :...

 to exhonerated defendants after being sent to jail
A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime...

 or prison
A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime...

. Some high level members of the court are ex officio members of special ad hoc courts; the investigatory commission of the High Court of Justice (Haute Cour de Justice), which may be convened to try the French President for high treason; the French Court of Justice
Cour de Justice de la République
The French Cour de Justice de la République , or CJR, is a special French court established to try cases of ministerial misconduct. Its remit only extends to government ministers concerning offences committed in the exercise of their functions...

 (Cour de Justice de la République), which may be convened to try current or former cabinet ministers
Minister (government)
A minister is a politician who holds significant public office in a national or regional government. Senior ministers are members of the cabinet....

 for crimes committed while in office; and the National Judicial Council (Conseil supérieur de la magistrature), which serves as a court of judicial discipline and disciplinary counsel. The High Court of Justice has never been convened during the Fifth Republic
French Fifth Republic
The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, introduced on 4 October 1958. The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, replacing the prior parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system...

 and the French Court of Justice only rarely.

Other related courts

The Supreme Court is not the only court of last resort in France. Cases involving claims against local agencies or the State, including all executive branch decisions and orders, are heard by the administrative courts for which the court of last resort is the Council of State which also has other non-judicial duties. In cases where there appears to be concurrent jurisdiction or a conflict of laws between the judicial and the administrative courts, whether both retain jurisdiction ("positive dispute") or decline jurisdiction ("negative dispute"), the Jurisdictional Disputes Tribunal (Tribunal des Conflits) decides the issue. The Court is composed of 4 members from both senior courts, and occasionally, such as during a tie vote, the justice minister who, if present, would also preside.

Neither of these courts has the power to strike down
Judicial review
Judicial review is the doctrine under which legislative and executive actions are subject to review by the judiciary. Specific courts with judicial review power must annul the acts of the state when it finds them incompatible with a higher authority...

A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

 passed by the French Parliament. The courts can, however, refuse to apply any statutory provision they consider inconsistent with France's international treaty
A treaty is an express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an agreement, protocol, covenant, convention or exchange of letters, among other terms...

 obligations. Another body, the Constitutional Council
Constitutional Council of France
The Constitutional Council is the highest constitutional authority in France. It was established by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic on 4 October 1958, and its duty is to ensure that the principles and rules of the constitution are upheld.Its main activity is to rule on whether proposed...

, has the power to invalidate laws that are inconsistent with the Constitution of France
Constitution of France
The current Constitution of France was adopted on 4 October 1958. It is typically called the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, and replaced that of the Fourth Republic dating from 1946. Charles de Gaulle was the main driving force in introducing the new constitution and inaugurating the Fifth...

. Before a law is enacted, the French President, the president of either house of Parliament, or, more commonly, 60 members of Parliament from the same house may request a review. Some laws, mostly constitutional laws (loi organique), come before the Constitutional Council for review without being first petitioned. Courts may take a restrictive view of the application of statute law.

The European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is a supra-national court established by the European Convention on Human Rights and hears complaints that a contracting state has violated the human rights enshrined in the Convention and its protocols. Complaints can be brought by individuals or...

 (ECtHR) has jurisdiction to hear disputes against the government of France involving an alleged breach of the European Convention on Human Rights
European Convention on Human Rights
The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is an international treaty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by the then newly formed Council of Europe, the convention entered into force on 3 September 1953...

. Before the ECtHR will hear a case, all remedies within France's court system must be exhausted; this usually involves following the appeal process through to a Supreme Court or Council of State ruling. However, ECtHR involvement would be considered a first instance case, not an appeal of the French court's ruling.

Additionally, the courts of France may request the opinion of the European Court of Justice
European Court of Justice
The Court can sit in plenary session, as a Grand Chamber of 13 judges, or in chambers of three or five judges. Plenary sitting are now very rare, and the court mostly sits in chambers of three or five judges...

 with respect to the laws of the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.