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Last update: 17-08-2004
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Organisation of justice - France

There are several categories of courts, organised in two major orders, the judicial order and the administrative order, dealing with cases of different types, scale and seriousness.

Where there is a conflict of jurisdiction between the two orders of courts - the judicial and the administrative - the Court of Conflicts decides which court will have jurisdiction.

Organisation charts (106KB pdf)

Further information on the organisation of the administrative courts in France fr

Detailed explanations

Tribunal d'Instance fr (District Court)

The District Court hears disputes between private individuals where the amount does not exceed €7600 and the subject-matter is within the court's jurisdiction (personal and property actions). It cannot try cases reserved by the law for another court, even if the amount at stake is below €7600.

It also tries certain cases specified by statute:

  • Attachment of earnings;
  • Pension annuities less than €3800;
  • Electoral disputes;
  • Residential leases.

The District Court also has a number of administrative functions:


  • Recording declarations of French nationality;
  • Establishing official records of matters stated to be of common knowledge and certificates of nationality;
  • Placing and removing seals on property in the event of a succession.

Other heads of jurisdiction

The District Court judges act as guardianship judges.

They order the emancipation of minors, organise protection schemes (guardianship etc.) for persons with impaired mental capacities.

Composition and location

The District Court consists of one or more judges, but cases are tried by a judge sitting alone.

The District Court is generally headquartered in the chief town of the judicial district (arrondissement).

The District Court that has jurisdiction is the one for the place where the defendant (the person who is being asked to do or pay something) resides.

Local addresses

Addresses can be found in the Yellow Pages (Les Pages Jaunes fr) of France Télécom.


Tribunal de Grande Instance fr (Regional Court)

The Regional Court tries:


  • disputes between private individuals in civil matters where the amount at stake is more than €7600;
  • disputes regardless of the amount concerning the family (marriage, divorce, adoption, succession, paternity), nationality, attachment of real property, patents, trademarks and the dissolution of associations.


The Regional Court consists of career judges: President, Vice-Presidents, judges, State Prosecutor, Deputy Prosecutors.

There are specialist judges such as the family judges (divorce, separation).

Other specialist judges in:

  • compulsory purchases;
  • enforcement (attachments and the like).

The Regional Court is generally headquartered in the chief town of the department, but it can also be elsewhere.

Which court should I go to?

Basically you should go to the court for the place where the defendant habitually resides.


  • cases concerning real property: court for the place where the property is situated;
  • cases concerning successions: court for the place where the succession is opened.

Other exceptions:

  • proceedings based on a contract: court for the place where the contract is to be performed;
  • proceedings based on a contract of sale: court for the place of delivery;
  • proceedings based on alimony: court for the place of the claimant's habitual residence.


fr (Commercial Court)

The Commercial Court hears all commercial disputes:


  • disputes between traders in the exercise of their business (e.g. where a trader challenges the value of goods bought from another trader),
  • disputes between members of a partnership,
  • disputes as to the valuation of goodwill.

It also hears:

  • disputes concerning commercial transactions between traders and non-traders (e.g. if you challenge the quality of goods sold to you by a trader),
  • disputes concerning judicial settlements and winding-up.

Administrative functions

The companies register is held at the registry of the Commercial Court.


The Commercial Court consists of a president and a variable number of lay judges. At least three judges must be present when judgment is given.

Judges are elected for two or four years by representatives of traders and industrialists.

Which court should I go to?

As a rule there will be one or more Commercial Courts in each department (judicial districts served by a Regional Court).

Where there is no Commercial Court, disputes are settled by the Regional Court, acting in accordance with Commercial Court procedure.

You should normally go to the Court for the place where the defendant is habitually resident.


Conseil de prud'hommes fr (Industrial Relations Tribunal)

It is responsible for settling individual disputes between employed persons and employers regarding the employment or apprenticeship contract.

If you are a civil servant or State employee, you must go to the Administrative Court. The Tribunal acts on application from the employee or employer and seeks to bring about a conciliation between the parties. It gives judgment only if conciliation, which is compulsory in all but the exceptional situations provided for by the law, fails.


Where is it?

As a rule, in the chief town for the department or canton.

Which one should I go to?

In general the one for the place of the enterprise. Employees working outside the enterprise should go to the one for the place where they reside.

Who are the judges?

The Industrial Relations Tribunal consists of an equal number of elected judges representing employees and employers. It is divided into five specialised sections:

  • Management;
  • Industry;
  • Commerce and commercial services;
  • Agriculture;
  • Miscellaneous activities.There is always a joint formation to handle urgent cases on summary motions.
    Where the four members' votes are equally divided, the Industrial Relations Tribunal is chaired by a judge from the District Court.


Tribunal des affaires de la sécurité sociale fr (Social Security Tribunal)

The Social Security Tribunal hears disputes between social security bodies and users.

Disputes mainly concern:

  • affiliation (membership of a social security scheme);
  • calculation and recovery of contributions and benefits.

It has no jurisdiction over:

  • decisions on medical matters (jurisdiction of the regional technical commission);
  • complaints regarding criminal offences against the Social Security Code;
  • disputes involving supplementary retirement pension institutions (civil courts).



It consists of:

  • a president (judge of the Regional Court);
  • lay assessors, designated for three years by the first president of the Court of Appeal from nominations presented by the most representative agricultural and non-agricultural trade unions organisations.

Where do I go?

The Social Security Tribunal is normally based at the headquarters of the Regional Court.

Secretarial services are provided by a member of the staff of the regional health and social affairs directorate.

The court you should go to is generally the one for the place where you or your employer habitually resides.

Information can be obtained from the Regional Court or your social security scheme.

Tribunal paritaire des baux ruraux (Agricultural Land Tribunal) fr

The Agricultural Land Tribunal has jurisdiction in disputes between the owner of agricultural land and tenant farmers relating to their leases.


  • agricultural rents;
  • duration of agricultural leases where rent is paid in the form of produce;
  • reoccupation of land by owner.

What it does not do

Problems not on the list above must be taken to other courts.

  • The Regional Court for disputes relating to the existence and nature of the lease;
  • The District Court for disputes relating to the payment of the rent.


A judge of the District Court chairs the Agricultural Land Tribunal. He is assisted by four elected lay assessors: two of them are landowners and two are tenant farmers.

They are elected for five years from lists of candidates prepared by the mayor of the district.

Where the Agricultural Land Tribunal cannot convene or operate, the case goes to the District Court.

Which court should I go to?

The court for the place where the farmland is situated. There is one at the chief town of each canton.

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Last update: 17-08-2004

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