French Legal Research
This is a brief guide to researching French law.
- Official French government website providing free access to legislative documents and information including the constitution, codes, official bulletins, legislative regulations and other French law related documents. The main webpage is in French, but does offer full-text English translation of French codes.
Principles of French Law, John Bell, Sophie Boyron & Simon Whittaker, INTL KJV233 .B45 2008. Provides and introduction and overview to the French legal system; includes an introduction to important legal institutions and rules and techniques of French legal processes.
Introduction to French Law, George A. Bermann & Etienne Picard eds., INTL KJV237 .I58 2008. Each chapter describes a major legal subject in French law.
1958 Constitution: The current Constitution of French was adopted in 1958, although several subsequent amendments have been made. This Constitution is frequently referred to as the Constitution of the Fifth Republic to distinguish it from the many prior constitutions that were in effect for various historical periods. Availability for the Contitution is as follows:
- Online from the National Assembly as an English translation, but be aware that only the French original is considered the authentic text. Prepared under the joint responsibility of the Press Information and Communication Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the European Affairs Department of the National Assembly.
- Constitutions of the Countries of the World: Online database from Oceana (best viewed with Internet Explorer). Contains the full text of constitutions from over 190 countries with English translations and introductory and comparative notes. Also available in the library in print: INTL K3157.A2 B54.
Constitution of 1791 (available in French from the French National Assembly )
Constitution of 1793
Constitution of the Year III (1795) (available in French from the French National Assembly)
Constitution of the Year VIII (1799) (available in French from the French National Assembly)
Constitution of the Year X (1802)
Constitution of the Year XII (1804)
Restoration of the Monarchy:
Constitution of 1848 - established the French Second Republic (in French from the French National Assembly)
Constitution of 1852 - established the French Second Empire (in French from the French National Assembly)
Constitutional Laws of 1875 - established the French Third Republic (in French from the French National Assembly)
Constitutional Law of 1940 - Vichy France (in French from the French National Assembly)
Constitutional Law of 1945 - Provisional Government of the French Republic
Constitution of 1946 - estabilshed the French Fourth Republic (in French)
The French Constitution: Its Origin and Development in the Fifth Republic, Bernard Chantebout (translated by David Grunning), KJV4074.51958 .C4813 1998
La Constitution de la Republique Francaise: Analyses et Commentaires, François Luchaire, Gérard Conac, Xavier Prétot, Clémence Zacharie, KJV4074.51958.A18 C66 2009
Statutes & Codes
France is a Civil Law Country whose statutes are broken down into different codes by subject area. Légifrance allows for users to search current versions of the different codes in French. English translations of the different subject French codes can also be found through the Légifrance website.
The codes are divided into parts: L.O. (organic laws) and L. (laws), that are regrouped in the legislative part; R. (decrees of the Conseil d'État) and D. (simple decrees), that are regrouped in the regulation part.
Here is a sampling of some of the most commonly used codes and their availability in both print and electronic formats:
Code Civil - by Dalloz (1975 - current) KJV444.2 1804.A2
- Text in French
- Official versions of the Code Civil together with other codes are available electronically through Légifrance.
- Unofficial, English Transation of the Code Civil is also available through Légifrance.
Code de Commerce - by Dalloz (1986 - current) KJV2194.3 .A52
- Text in French
- Official versions of the Code de Commerce together with other codes are available through Légifrance.
- Unofficial, English Translation of the Code de Commerce is also available through Légifrance
Code de Procédure Civile (Nouveau) - by Dalloz (1986 - current) Replaced the Procedure Civile in 1976; KJV3933.4.A52
- Text in French
- Official version of the Code de Procedure Civile (Nouveau) is available through Légifrance
- Unofficial, English Translation of the Code de Procedure Civile
Code de Procédure Pénale - by Dalloz (1975-76; 1985 - current) KJV8412.4.A52
- Text in French
- Official version of the Code de Procedure Penale together with other codes are available through Légifrance
- Unofficial, English Translation of the Code de Procedure Penale
Code Pénal - by Dalloz (1986-1992) KJV7982.A52
- Text in French
- Official version of the Code Penal together with other codes are available through Légifrance.
- Unofficial, English Translation of the Code Penal.
- by Dalloz(1986 -1992)
Journal Officiel de la République Française. Lois et Décrets - Official gazette of published laws and executive regulations; also includes proposed bills and parliamentary debates.
- Available from Lexis - January 2000 through current
- Available from Légifrance (online) - 1990 through current
- Microform in the Library - KJV17.F72 Micro - 1988 through 2003.
Court Decisions & Case Law
Conseil Constitutionnel: The Conseil Constitutionnel was established in 1958 to review the constitutionality of French legislation. The Conseil web site provides the full text of the current 1958 French constitution and the full-text of recent decisions.
- Conseil Constitutionel website - provides full text of the 15 previous constitutions from 1791 - current (in French)
- Access to all decisions since 1958
- Les cahiers du Conseil Constituionnel: Print K3.A145 (1996 - present)
Conseil d‰État : The Conseil d‰État is the highest administrative court in France. Provides the full-text of recent decisions.
- Conseil d‰État webpage: includes selected decisions from 1873 to present (in French)
- Légifrance: includes selected decisions from the 1960s to the present (in French)
Cour de Cassation: The Cour de Cassation is the highest judicial court in France. It is divided into six different chambers which hear matters: Criminal Chamber; Social Chamber; Commercial, Economic and Financial Chamber; and three civil chambers (First, Second, and Third Chambers). Provides the full-text of recent decisions.
- Cour de Cassation website: includes decisions from the different chambers of the court, based on subject matter (in French)
- Bulletins to the different chambers of the court (most recent two years)
Recueil Dalloz (1999 - current) Daily bulletin series which includes current news, legal writings, jurisprudence for the full text of court decisions with notes, and legislation and summaries of new cases. Important source for courts decisions. (In French)
- Print in the Library: KJV112.R43 (1999 - present)
- Earlier editions:
- Recueil Dalloz (1997-1999)
- Recueil Dalloz Sirey de doctrine, de jurisprudence et de legislation (1965-1996)
Semaine Juridique: Comprehensive, unofficial court reporter containing current news, legal writings, jurisprudence for the full text of court decisions with notes, and legislation and summaries of new cases.
- Available on Lexis (GULC students & faculty only) from January 1995 through current
- Print in the Library: KJV80.S45 (Text in French)
Treaties & International Agreements
Recueil des Traités et Accords de la France
- Ministère des Relations Extérieures
Semimonthly publication of current bilateral, multilateral, and other treaties and agreements of which the French are a party.
Print - in the Library Location: INTL / Call No.: KZ685.3 .R43
Research Guides and Tutorials
French Law on the Internet - The Basics and Free Resources
- by Emmanuel Barthe law librarian researcher at BMH Avocats in Paris, France.
Germain's French Law Guide
- by Claire M. Germain, Edward Cornell Law Librarian and Professor of Law at Cornell Law School.
Comprehensive French law guide.
How to Conduct Research in French Law
- by Nicole Atwill, Senior Legal Specialist, Legal Research Directorate, Law Library of Congress
"This paper outlines a methodology for handling a research issue in French law and identifies the various sources of that law."
Researching French Law
- by Stéphane Cottin, chief registrar of the Constitutional Council of France
Assemblée Nationale (National Assembly)
- The Lower house of the French Parliament where 577 députés are elected for 5-year terms. The Assemblée passes laws and votes on the budget.
- The Sénat is the upper parliamentary chamber of France, with 321 sénateurs, elected for nine years.
Commercial Laws of the World
- Provides full-text translations of commercial laws and codes from around the world.
Print - in the Library Location: INTL / Call No.: K1004.15 1976
Encyclopédie Juridique Dalloz
- French legal encyclopedia organized by subject, updated around three times a year. Heavily used by practitioners and scholars of French law. Considered scholarly and of high quality. All the articles have been written by renowned judges, scholars, or practitioners. Subjects include civil law, commercial law, labor law, criminal law, criminal procedure, civil procedure, and administrative and public law. Each set is called "répertoire".
Print - in the Library Location: / Call No.:
Updated 10/2010 (ajc)
Updated 6/10 (las)
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