Other jurisdictions

Other jurisdictions

The special status afforded to the specialist lawyers who work with the Council of State and Court of Cassation does not allow them to represent litigants before the lower courts (such as the regional courts, commercial courts, criminal courts, employment tribunals or courts of appeal).

However, they are allowed to appear before all administrative courts, the Constitutional Council and supranational courts such as the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Lower administrative jurisdictions

France has 42 administrative courts which judge the majority of administrative litigation cases under ordinary law. They have last resort competence in certain matters, including disputes relating to building permits in areas where demand vastly exceeds supply (known as zones tendues). In other matters, their rulings can be contested before the administrative courts of appeal. There are eight of these courts, which rule in the first and last resort on litigation cases in certain areas (audiovisual, union representation, commercial building developments).

There are also numerous specialist administrative courts, whose responsibilities vary greatly. Some of them rule exclusively in the first and last resort (such as the National Court of Asylum and the Court of Budgetary and Financial Discipline), whereas others have powers of appeal (such as the first instance disciplinary courts for the medical sector, whose rulings are appealed before the national disciplinary division of the relevant professional council), and a few exercise powers of both first resort and appeal, depending on the case, or even non-jurisdictional powers (such as the Court of Audit in particular).

Matuchansky, Poupot & Valdelièvre handles many cases before the ordinary administrative courts (lower courts and courts of appeal), especially within the Greater Paris region, and also sometimes works with the specialist administrative courts, in particular the financial courts and professional councils.

Constitutional Council (Conseil Constitutionnel)

The Constitutional Council was created in 1958 by the Fifth Republic and it has nine members, each appointed for nine years.

Its primary role is to ensure France’s laws comply with the country’s constitution. It performs this duty of verification both in advance, before laws are passed, and in retrospect, by assessing Priority Questions on Issues of Constitutionality (question prioritaire de constitutionnalité).

This is a specific procedure that can be used during a lawsuit, whereby the Council of State or the Court of Cassation submits a Priority Question on Constitutionality to the Constitutional Court, asking it to rule on the constitutionality of a particular legal provision and, if necessary, repeal the provision or establish how the provision should be interpreted to ensure it is lawful.

With extensive experience in cross-disciplinary legal issues and the highest legal norms, specialist Council Lawyers are especially skilled at submitting priority questions of confidentiality for referral to the Constitutional Council, and at arguing their point both in writing and verbally before the Council.

They may also be asked to pass on contributions (using a process known as porte étroite) made by members of civil society wishing to state their own opinion on the constitutionality of a law being assessed by the Constitutional Council prior to its enactment.

European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)

A court with supranational jurisdiction instituted by the Council of Europe in 1959, the European Court of Human Rights ensures that all Member States abide by the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its protocols (for example, the right to a fair trial, the right to an effective remedy and the right to peaceful enjoyment of property).

Specialist Council Lawyers can represent and assist anyone who wants to bring a claim for a breach of their human rights before the European Court, once they have exhausted all other routes of appeal before the French courts.

Council Lawyers apply the full breadth and depth of their procedural and legal experience to present an effective appeal before the European Court, which now has very strict filters for inadmissible cases.

Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)

Formerly known as the Court of Justice of the European Communities, and now informally referred to as the European Court of Justice, this institution comprises the Court of Justice itself, the General Court and specialised courts (Treaty on European Union (TEU) article 19).

The court’s role is to ‘ensure that in the interpretation and application of the Treaties the law is observed’ (TEU art. 19). The court performs this verification and interpretation of EU law in a number of different types of case, some of which, in certain circumstances, can be used by individuals and companies (such as preliminary rulings, actions for annulment and actions for failure to act).

Council Lawyers are authorised to represent and assist people during these proceedings, which can be especially technical in nature.