Version updated on 27 May 2020
In accordance with the authorization given by Parliament under law no. 2020-290 of 23 March 2020, the Government passed the ordinance no. 2020-304 on 25 March 2020 which was amended and supplemented by Ordinance no. 2020-595 of 20 May 2020 (the "Judicial Courts Ordinance") in order to streamline the functioning of the civil, social and commercial courts, by allowing the parties to be informed and the organization of adversarial proceedings by any means.
The Judicial Courts Ordinance sets up provisions relating to the courts of the judicial order ruling in non-criminal matters.
This presentation does not cover the measures for the legal protection for adults (article 12), nor the special provisions for juvenile courts and educational assistance detailed therein (articles 13 to 21), nor those relating to co-ownership (article 22) (the latter measures relating to co-ownership are covered herein).
The following provisions shall apply to judicial courts, which are ruling in non-criminal matters during the period between 12 March 2020 and 23 June 2020 inclusive.
SCOPE AND REFERENCE (Articles 1 and 2)
The Judicial Courts Ordinance recalls that the time limits provided for in the ordinance no. 2020-306 of 25 March 2020 on the extension of time limits during the period of health emergency and the adaptation of procedures during that same period are applicable to proceedings before the courts of law ruling in non-criminal matters (this ordinance is commented here).
It should be noted that:
- the procedural deadlines applicable before the judge of liberties and detention (le juge des libertés et de la détention) and before the first president of the Court of Appeal hearing an appeal against the decisions of the former run in accordance with the legislative and regulatory rules applicable to them;
- the ordinances adapts the procedural deadlines applicable before the juvenile courts; and
- the deadlines relating to foreclosures are suspended between 12 March and 23 June 2020 inclusive.
TRANSFER OF TERRITORIAL COMPETENCE (Article 3)
The Judicial Courts Ordinance allows the first president of the Court of Appeal to designate by order another jurisdiction of the same nature and within the jurisdiction of the same Court of Appeal to hear all or part of the activity falling within the jurisdiction of the court, which is unable to exercise its authority.
This transfer of territorial jurisdiction may not be taken for a period extending beyond 23 June 2020 inclusive and must be published.
HEARINGS, REFERENCES AND DELIVERIES (Articles 4 to 10)
The Judicial Courts Ordinance provides, inter alia, that:
- when a hearing whereby the judge will hear the parties allegations or witness' testimony is cancelled, the registry shall notify the parties assisted or represented by a lawyer or having consented to communication by electronic means, of the postponement of the case or the hearing by any means, in particular by electronic means (in other cases, the registry shall notify the parties by any means, in particular by simple letter).
- the court may, if the pleading hearing, the end of disclosure procedure (clôture de l'instruction) or the decision to rule without a hearing takes place between 12 March and 23 June 2020 inclusive, upon decision of its president, rule as a single-judge formation in first instance and on appeal, in all cases submitted to it (subject to specific provisions applicable to commercial and employment courts).
- under the ordinary written procedure, the examining judge or the magistrate in charge of the report (le juge de la mise en état ou le magistrat chargé du rapport) may hold the hearing alone to hear the pleadings, he shall inform the parties by any means, and shall report back to the court in his deliberations.
- the parties may exchange their written arguments and documents by any means as long as the judge ensures that the adversarial process is respected.
- that the heads of jurisdiction determine the conditions of access to the court and to the courtrooms in order to ensure compliance with the health rules in force.
- that the judge or the president of the judicial panel may decide, before the commencement of the hearing, that the proceedings will be held in restricted publicity or in chambers.
- the setting up of dematerialized hearings or testimonies by means of audiovisual telecommunication allowing to ensure the identity of the participants and guaranteeing the quality of the transmission and the confidentiality of the exchanges between the parties and their lawyers or the witness.
- the members of the judicial panel, the registrar, the parties, the persons assisting or representing them, and the persons summoned to the hearing or testimony may be in separate locations.
- in particular, the judge remains the guarantor of the proper conduct of the debates and the respect of the rights of the defense, the adversarial process and the secrecy of the deliberations.
- the possibility, at any stage of the proceedings to decide that they will take place, without a hearing if representation is mandatory or when the parties are assisted or represented by a lawyer.
- in the case of summary proceedings, accelerated proceedings on the merits or proceedings in which the judge must rule within a given time limit, the parties do not have the possibility of objecting to the proceedings without a hearing.
These provisions shall apply between 12 March and 23 June 2020 inclusive.
- summons for summary proceedings may be rejected before the hearing if the application is inadmissible or if there is no need for summary proceedings (in order to avoid congestion of the summary proceedings hearings which are maintained).
- decisions may be brought to the attention of the parties or interested parties by any means (without prejudice to the provisions relating to their notification).
- summons and notifications for which the Court Clerk is responsible shall be sent by simple letter where a registered letter with a request for acknowledgement of receipt is normally required.
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