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The French Justice Minister announces major plans to reform France’s justice system

A few weeks ago, Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti unveiled a 60-measure plan to resolve some of the sector’s major problems.

Eight sectors have been developed by the Minister of Justice:

(1) Human and financial resources, with a budget increase of 45% between 2020 and 2027, and recruitment of thousands of judges and clerks

(2) Improvement of the value of judicial professions, with better salaries and working conditions

(3) Reorganisation of the judicial system, with the judge being the head of a multidisciplinary team, and improved access to justice via digital systems

(4) Reform of employment and social security justice

(5) Overhaul of criminal procedure, with a focus on victims, their protection, their access to compensation and their involvement in the criminal process, and a reduction of the duration of the proceedings.

(6) Prisons measures, with a focus on work during imprisonment and reinsertion

(7) Actions in judicial youth protection

(8) Innovative measures in civil proceedings, the highlight being on amicable settlement and alternative dispute resolution, through the introduction of:

  • the possibility to split the proceedings between liability and quantum (‘césure du proces civil’): this means that the judge would decide first on the merits of the case and any liability issues, and then, if the claim fails, the proceedings would cease there (subject to appeal); if the claim is successful, the judge would invite the parties to try and agree quantum of the claim. If the parties agree to choose the split proceedings, their case would be prioritised into the system.

While this is a well-known preliminary step in civil justice systems in England & Wales, Netherlands and Canada, this is new to France and constitutes a major innovation.

  • an amicable settlement hearing: if the parties are willing, they can be referred to a judge who will receive them quickly in the presence of their lawyer, the judge will act as a conciliator and with the help of the lawyers will try to reach an agreement between the parties. Once they have reached an agreement, it will be drafted by the lawyers and the judge will approve the agreement within a month.

The civil procedure code will also be amended to enhance its readability, in particular with regards to the alternative dispute resolution modes :  the principles of the amiability and its tools will be regrouped in the same chapter of the code.

Finally, private international law will be codified, being a tool for promoting French law and procedure internationally.

The overall project is ambitious and reflects that the Ministry has heard the numerous calls for reform from the judiciary. It remains to be seen if the measures put in place are sufficient to unclog the system and reduce the time to conclude a dispute – be it by settlement or judgment.

Thank you to our legal intern Nada Haggag for her contribution to this article!

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