Legal System and Tradition in France


The legal system in any country depends on the country itself. It depends on how individuals in the country relate in terms of customs, religion, culture, and politics. Common law structure and civil are some of the mainly common forms of legal systems. There are others such as customary law, Muslim law, and mixed law systems. For this reason, the legal system and tradition in France differ from legal systems and traditions practiced in some other countries.

France is a civil law country and the legal system in the countries is follows a body of written law. The law has many indigenous concepts borrowed from other laws especially Roman law. The selection of an individual to become a judge follows a certain procedure and there are fulfillments that he or she must have. This paper will seek to analyze the legal system and tradition in France.

Court System in France

As stated before, the legal system in France is based purely on written civil law (Germain 5). The executive law structure is referred to as the napoleon code since it was established by Napoleon. It governs the civil code, code penal, and code fiscal. The code is updated regularly to help build a fair and ethical nation. Two judicial structures that exist in France include the judiciary and the managerial. The judiciary handles issues to do with illegal and social cases while the managerial deals with conflicts between persons and the government. Cases are decided upon by nine judges of which three are professional and six are tribunal.

The country follows a unitary state model as a result of the culture of individuals in it. This helps create a good attitude of citizens towards the law meaning that they are willing to follow it. The system is different from the one followed in the federal state model where there is federal law and state law.


French law originated from Roman law and German customary law. It emerged as a nation-state in the sixteenth century under the centralization of royal authority. At this time, the sources of law included Roman law, local customs, canon law, case laws of the parliament, royal authority, and doctrinal writings. The law was taught in universities and academic writers composed many articles that influenced the development of the law. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the natural law movement led to the development of law based on reasoning. The violent issues and bloodshed that the country faced between 1789 and 1803 led to the abolishment of the ancient privileges. It has also resulted in the warrant of personal freedom, the establishment of equality before the law, as well as safeguarding of personal properties.

A written constitution differentiating the governmental, managerial and judicial powers was drafted. Also, a dual court system was established which constituted of administrative and regular courts. Administrative and constitutional law was developed in the nineteenth century (Gibson and Caldeira 181).

Becoming a Judge

A judge is an individual given the mandate to lead a legal process in court. In France, judges serve as leaders of the inquiry board and also supervise native courts. France incorporates social law and judges in the nation are professionals who have been trained in the discipline of law. An individual wishing to become a judge should possess extensive knowledge of laws. The individual should possess an LL.B and should be thirty-five years and above. He or she should have enough experience and stand out in the field of law (Rene and Vries 169). He or she should also be able to think logically, conduct research, and have excellent communication skills.

Political Influence

The legal system in France has a great influence on politics. During colonization, France used its laws in all the countries that it colonized. The political systems in such countries followed the system that was followed by France (Germain 7). Again, France was amongst the first countries that formed the European Union. The politics in the union are greatly affected by the legal system of France. The influence that the legal system of France has on politics is based on the cultures of individuals. A different country would have a completely different influence from the influence of other countries whose system is different from the civil legal system.

Strict Legal Code versus Interpretation

A case in France is led by a judge but the final decision is agreed upon by a panel of nine judges. The final agreement depends on the nature of the case and the laws that are laid down. The legal code consists of penalties given to offenders in cases. The strict legal code guides the judges in agreeing upon the penalty to the offender. Some cases that are similar to previous cases follow the strict legal code. In some cases, the judges are expected to interpret a case using the knowledge they have acquired and then agree on the penalty that the offender deserves.


There are several types of cases in the France legal system. Civil cases involve the government and individuals. The government prosecutor stands for the government during social cases. When dealing with a criminal case, parties that are involved include the claimant and the defendant (Knapp and Wright 118). The plaintiff gives evidence of the committed offense. To decide on the penalty given to the offender, the panel uses the evidence provided by the plaintiff or other witnesses. The appeal court hears cases that the defendants are not satisfied with the proceedings. The court may confirm the sentence, reduce it or increase it. For example, Secher had been sentenced to sixteen years imprisonment for the alleged rape of a girl who was thirteen years old. The man was released in 2008 after he was proved guilty.

Rooted In

The legal system in France started being developed in the twelfth century. Improvements have been made from the original copy that contains information from other sources (Rene and Vries 86). The code that was developed has been undergoing major changes to provide the current code that is in use. The code is based on the happenings that take place every day. The code is also based on the severity of an offense. At the end of the day, the code is meant to bring liberty and justice to all.

Military Courts in France

Members of the military in France are not tried in the same courts as the other citizens. They are tried in military courts. In Paris, three military courts are purely for hearing cases committed by members of the military especially when members of the military are outside the region. The panel in the courts is made up of seven judges (Knapp and Wrig 122). These are the president who is the prosecuting officer and the defender and six assistants. A rapporteur investigates the case and composes a report on the facts about the case. The judgment is given from the information in the report.


The legal system in France is made up of many interrelated parts. The institutional structure for enforcement of law defines the major components that make up the legal system in France. The state is one of these components. The judiciary stands on part of the state. Judges are charged with the responsibilities of translating the law (Rene and Vries 23). This is in the process of giving justice to all. The process of interpreting the law is quite complicated because the cases are not always similar. Again, if the available law cannot deal with a situation at hand, legislative reform may be done so that such cases are incorporated.

International Law

International law is different from the law in France in that international law governs the conduct of independent nations (Friedman 209). It involves provinces rather than citizens belonging to individual states. International law is developed from three lawful disciplines which include public international rule, personal international law, and supranational rule. The values and rules that control international society act as the main foundation of international rule. This is different from the civil system used in France whose sources are other laws. International law is also influenced by lawful and political theories.


France follows a civil form of a legal system that is written. The main sources of the law are Roman law and German customary law. For an individual to become a judge in France he or she has to possess much knowledge and experience in the field of law. Members of the military are tried in their courts and not in the ordinary courts.

Works Cited

Friedman, Lawrence. The Legal System: A Social Science Perspective. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2000. Print.

Germain, Claire. Features-Germain’s French Law Guide. 2000. Web.

Gibson, James and Caldeira, Gregory. The legal Culture of Europe. Law & Society Review, (30)1: 1996.

Knapp, Andrew and Wright, Vincent. The Government and Politics of France. New York: Routledge, 1994. Print.

Rene, David and Vries, Henry. The French Legal System: An Introduction to Civil Law System. The Cambridge Journal of Law, 12.3(1959).

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