Lisa Davies, August 2017
We also recommend the following online research guides for foreign jurisdictions.
France (la République Française) is a unitary state and Republic, governed by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic (4 October 1958). It is a civil law country with a legal system based on a hierarchy of legal sources (also known as the 'hierachy of norms'). Sources of law include the Constitution, international treaties, EU law, and the national law of France. France’s head of state is the directly elected President. The President is chief of the executive branch of government and presides over the cabinet (Conseil des Ministres). The Prime Minister leads the government. He or she is appointed by the President, based on the parliamentary majority.
The IALS Library has a good collection on the law of France: legislation, codes, law reports, print and electronic finding tools, academic treatises, and several academic law journals. As with all jurisdictions, priority is normally given to primary sources (statutes, cases) though with the greater importance of what the French call "doctrine" or scholarly legal literature in continental legal systems, the definition has to be broadened to include standard texts on the major fields of law. The databases LexisNexis Juris Classeur and Le Doctrinal offer academic users on-site access to comprehensive electronic collections of legislation, case law, commentary and journals.
French legislation includes the "lois" passed by the French Parliament (Le Parlement, which consists of the Assemblée Nationale and the Sénat), "ordonnances" which are governmental measures approved by Parliament for a limited period, "décrets" or decrees of the President or the Prime Minister, and "arrêtés" issued by ministers. A basic and useful outline of the sources and types of French law, A propos de l'ordre juridique français, is available on the Legifrance website.
Session laws are published in the Journal Officiel de la République Française. Legifrance makes available the laws published in the Journal Officiel for free (1947 to date). Texts from June 2004 to date are certified with an electronic signature. A dedicated search page for the Journal Officiel is available at https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/initRechExpTexteJorf.do?from=legi.
Of historic interest, IALS has the Bulletin des lois (1789-1931).
Collections of the legislation in force are known as codes. The codes are in effect a framework for the major branches of the law. Many current codes are available on Legifrance in French, with some in English too. Academic researchers at IALS can find codes on the Electronic Law Library, on both LexisNexis Juris Classeur and Le Doctrinal.
IALS Library regularly receives updated versions of the Code Civil and the Code Pénal, in addition to many other compilations of French law published by Dalloz. The series is known as "Codes Dalloz" (formerly "Petits Codes Dalloz") and around 20 current volumes are available. These are easily recognised by their red covers, and many previous editions are in the reserve collection. The codes offer a systematic and thematic treatment of the current law and are the best starting point to identify the law on a particular topic. The Codes Dalloz can also be a good source of law which is not code. They include many relevant pieces of legislation (lois, ordonnances, décrets, arrêtes, etc) as well as summaries of relevant jurisprudence (case law) and references to doctrinal writing.
Free online resources
Legifrance is the official portal offering public access to the legislation of France currently in force. "Les autres textes législatifs et réglementaires" offers a template to search for legislation by:
A subject search is also available: "Recherche thématique sur la législation et la réglementation en vigueur".
Legifrance makes available the laws published in the Journal Officiel for free (1947 – to date). Texts from June 2004 to date are certified with an electronic signature.
Guides to using Legifrance are availble at www.legifrance.gouv.fr/Aide/Utilisation.
Commercial subscription databases
The following databases are available onsite at IALS for academic users.
Le Doctrinal includes:
Lexis Nexis JurisClasseur includes:
Here is a selection of citations to French legislation. The reference in brackets in each citation is to the Journal Officiel de la République Française. This series is not held by IALS Library, but it is available free on Legifrance.
Loi n° 2000-196 du 6 mars 2000, Loi instituant un Défenseur des enfants
(J.O n° 56 du 7 mars 2000 page 3536)
Décret n° 2000-601 du 30 juin 2000, Décret relatif au régime d'assurance chômage des travailleurs privés d'emploi
(J.O n° 151 du 1 juillet 2000 page 9963)
Ordonnance n° 2000-550 du 15 juin 2000, Ordonnance relative aux parties législatives des livres VII (Dispositions sociales) et IX (Santé publique vétérinaire et protection des végétaux) et à la mise à jour des parties législatives des livres Ier (Aménagement et équipement de l'espace rural), III (Exploitation agricole) et VI (Production et marchés) du code rural
(J.O n° 273 du 25 novembre 2000 page 18790)
Arrêté du 25 mai 1999 modifiant les arrêtés du 24 janvier 1994 modifiés relatifs respectivement aux caractéristiques du gazole et du gazole grand froid
(J.O n° 146 du 26 juin 1999 page 9377)
In France there are two separate court systems; the judicial system (which comprises civil and criminal courts and is known as l'ordre judiciaire) and the administrative system. A diagram showing the hierachy of the civil and criminal courts in the judicial system is available on the Ministry of Justice website at www.justice.gouv.fr/organisation-de-la-justice-10031/lordre-judiciaire-10033/. Appeals from the courts of first instance are heard by one of appeal courts (Cours d'appel) and and then the highest court in the system; the Cour de Cassation. Administrative cases are heard initially in the Tribunal Administratif and may go on appeal to the Cour Administrative d’appel. The highest administrative court is the Conseil d’Etat.
The Constitutional Council (Conseil Constitutionnel) is concerned with the constitutionality of legislation and the regularity of elections. It sits outside of the two court systems mentioned above.
Official series and websites
Cour de Cassation
Decisions from the Cour de Cassation are published in the following series of law reports, which the Institute Library holds from 1986 to 2007.
Bulletin des arrêts de la Cour de Cassation. (Paris: Imprimerie des Journaux Officiels, 1798-)
The Bulletin is split into two concurrent series - Chambres civiles and Chambre Criminelle - and forms part of the Journal Officiel de la République française.
Decisions of the Cour de Cassation from the early 1960s onwards are now available on Legifrance under Jurisprudence. Some "grands arrêts" and "arrêts sélectionnés" are published on the website of the Cour de Cassation.
The decisions of the Conseil d'Etat are published in:
Recueil des décisions du Conseil d'Etat, du Tribunal des Conflits et des jugements des tribunaux administratifs, 1821- ; (IALS: 1905 -). It is known by the name of its 19th century editor, Lebon.
Summaries of important decisions are available on the website of the Conseil d'Etat. A selection are available in English at http://english.conseil-etat.fr/Judging. Decisions of the Conseil d'Etat are available on Legifrance under Jurisprudence.
Decisions of the Conseil Constitutionnel are available on Legifrance under Jurisprudence.
Commercial subscription databases
The Jurisprudence section on Lexis Nexis JurisClasseur is a good source for case law. This database is available onsite at IALS for academic users. You can search for cases by party name, court, keyword and free-text. Case law includes the full text of decisions of the Cour de Cassation, the Conseil d'Etat and various Cours d'Appel. Coverage is selective for some of the appeal courts and tribunals. Coverage begins with decisions from 1804, with a more comprehensive treatment since 1985. Many decisions are in summary form.
Le Doctrinal includes a digest of, and commentary on, significant French court decisions: Jurisprudence Clé.
Commercial print sources
Other than the official series and websites, court decisions can be found in the three recueils généraux.The most common way of looking up decisions of French courts is by the date of the decision or by the subject matter or keyword of the case. Indexes of party names are uncommon. The three recueils généraux are:
Other printed sources at IALS to try:
Other online resources for finding decisions
Legisfrance provides a useful list of links to decisions and other documentation from the courts https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/Sites/Juridictions.
Here is a selection of citations to decisions of French courts:
What it means
Cass. Crim., 28 juin 2000, BC no 251, p.741
A decision of the Cour de Cassation, Chambre Criminelle, of 28 June 2000, and reported in the Bulletin des Arrêts de la Cour de Cassation, 2000, report number 251, page 741
1997 TC 12 mai
A decision of the Tribunal des Conflits, of a case heard on 12 May 1997
1996 CE 31 juillet
A decision of the Conseil d'État of 31 July 1996
1995 CA Rennes, 11 mai
A decision of the Cour d'Appel de Rennes, of 11 May 1995
1995 CA Toulouse, 20 juin
A decision of the Cour d'Appel de Toulouse, of 20 June 1995
1994 Crim. 9 mai
A decision of the Cour de Cassation, Chambre Criminelle, of 9 May 1994
1994 Civ. (1) 12 juillet
A decision of the Cour de Cassation, Chambre Civile, of 12 July 1994
1993 CA Paris 15ème ch.B, 24 sept.
A decision of the Cour d'Appel de Paris, of 24 September 1993
1993 TGI Aix-en-Provence, 22 déc.
A decision of the Tribunal de Grand Instance of Aix-en-Provence, of 22 December 1993
Academic users of IALS Library will find the full collection of Encyclopédies Juris Classeur on LexisNexis Juris Classeur on the IALS Electronic Law Library. Fifty seven collections are arranged by subject, an equivalent of over 300 volumes, and the whole encyclopaedia can be searched or browsed.
IALS Library has two major encyclopaedic works, each in loose-leaf format, but no longer updated and now shelved in the reserve collection:
Encyclopédie juridique Dalloz, 2nd edition, published by Dalloz
Juris-Classeurs, published by Editions Techniques
IALS has a good collection of French law books on various topics, with current material on the open shelves and older material kept in the reserve collection. The following list of recent titles has been selected to illustrate briefly the range of subjects and publishers represented in the collection. Search the Library Catalogue for full details of library holdings.
Auby JM and others. Droit administratif des biens : domaine public et privé, travaux et ouvrages publics, expropriation (7th edn, Dalloz 2016)
Calais-Auloy J, Droit de la consommation (9th edn, Dalloz 2015)
Dupeyroux JJ, Droit de la sécurité sociale (18th edn, Dalloz 2015)
Favoreu L, Droit constitutionnel (16th edn, Dalloz 2014)
Gavalda C, Droit bancaire (9th edn, LexisNexis 2015)
Prieur M, Droit de l'environnement. (7th edn, Dalloz 2016)
Terré F, Droit civil : les régimes matrimoniaux (7th edn, Dalloz 2015)
Most of the Library's materials on French law are in French. Below is a list of selected works in English. Refer to the Library Catalogue for full details of library holdings.
Bell J, French legal cultures (Butterworths 2001)
Bell J and others, Principles of French law (2nd edn, OUP 2008)
Elliott C and others, French legal system (2nd edn, Pearson / Longman 2006)
Steiner E, French law: a comparative approach (OUP 2010)
The French code of civil procedure in English, 2008 translated by Nicolas Brooke (OUP 2009)
The French civil code translated by Tony Weir (UCL Press 2006)
The French commercial code in English translated by Philip Raworth (Thomson Reuters 2013)
Other works in English include
Fournet C, Genocide and crimes against humanity: misconceptions and confusion in French law and practice (Hart 2013)
Legros C, Transport law in France (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012)
Vogel L, French competition law (LexLaw 2015)
Vogel L, French distribution law (LexLaw 2015)
The Institute holds several French law journals. These include:
Archives de philosophie du droit (IALS: 1952-)
Droit d'auteur (IALS: 1953-1964)
Droit maritime français (IALS: 1927-)
Droits: revue française de théorie juridique (IALS: 1985-)
Revue administrative (IALS: 1955-2014)
Revue de science criminelle et de droit pénal comparé (IALS: 1936-)
Revue française de droit administratif (IALS: 1985-)
Revue française de droit aérien et spatial (IALS: 1929-)
Revue génerale de droit international public (IALS: 1910-)
Revue générale des assurances terrestres (IALS: 1962-1995)
Revue historique de droit français et étranger (IALS: 1922-)
Revue juridique de l'environnement (IALS: 1984-)
Revue trimestrielle de droit civil (IALS: 1902-)
Revue trimestrielle de droit commercial et de droit économique (IALS: 1980-)
Revue trimestrielle de droit européen (IALS: 1980-)
Lexis Nexis JurisClasseur has over 20 journal titles in full text, coverage starting with 2004, but some of the titles of La Semaine Juridique are from 1995 onwards.
Le Doctrinal contains an index to French law journals. More than 150 journals are indexed, and the database is updated daily. Some journals of international scope and in English are included in the index. Data starts from 1993.
The Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals covers journals from non-common law jurisdictions, international law and comparative law. It can be used to identify articles in French law journals on a particular legal topic.
Droit.org: Portail du Droit Français: a gateway site on French law
Eagle-i Internet Portal for Law: a guide to good quality law resources on the internet, including many concerned with French law
Germain's French Law Guide: a guide to the French legal system sources of French law written by Claire Germain
GlobaLex has an article on Researching French Law, by Stéphane Cottin and Jérôme Rabenou, published in June 2017
Jurisguide: guides to sources of French, European and international law produced by Cujas University library in collaboration with eleven other university libraries
The Judiciary in France: a guide to the French judiciary published in English by the Ministry of Justice
Legifrance: an official French site offering comprehensive access to legislation and case law
Vie-Publique.fr: a site published by La Documentation Française, giving access to many official publications and providing overviews of the key organs of governance and law making in France
World Law: France: a resource guide to French law on the WorldLII site