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Copyright (c) 1994 Boston University International Law Journal
Boston University International Law Journal

AN OVERVIEW OF THE FRENCH LEGAL SYSTEM FROM AN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE

Spring, 1994

12 B.U. Int'l L.J. 58

Author

Nicolas Marie Kublicki *

Excerpt



I. Introduction

France is a civil law jurisdiction. The implications of this legal system are twofold. First, French law is derived solely from legislative statutes or codes. 1 Second, the French judiciary cannot make law through novel binding substantive precedent. 2 Yet, the supremacy of statute and the lack of legal precedent constitute only one of the several characteristic differences between the French and American legal systems. Three other salient differences exist. First among these is the systemic difference between the court structures of the two countries. The French legal system differentiates between administrative and judicial courts, and thus encompasses an intricate matrix of tribunals. However, for all its complexity, the organization of French courts is as logical as the Cartesian minds 3 that developed it. Second, French constitutional review is quite different from the notions inspired by the term in the United States. Unlike the supreme nature of its American counterpart, the French Constitution is equal in force to legislative statute. Hence, French constitutional review lacks the ability to implement social and economic policy. Third, the French legal system is devoid of certain substantive and procedural trial rules that have become second nature to the American trial lawyer. Among these are the virtual absence of discovery, motions, testimonial evidence, and jury trials.

The purpose of this Article is to provide the American lawyer with a critical overview of the French legal system. In particular, the Article seeks to demonstrate that French substantive and procedural rules ...
 
 
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