On 13 March 2020, French Ministry of Justice issued a
press release just after the announcements of the President of the French
Republic. The aim, due to the emergency, is to protect citizens who are the
most vulnerable and to curb the epidemic. Chancery has now prepared continuing
plans to allow Justice to face core obligations of the Nation.
According to a CNB (Conseil National des Barreaux)
release dated 15 March 2020, the continuing plans will be triggered as from 16
March 2020 by the Ministry of Justice to avoid propagation of Covid-19.
Tribunal and courts will be closed, except for cases relating to core
Core litigations are limited to (i) criminal tribunals
and courts including (a) pre-trial custody (détention provisoire) and
probation (contrôle judiciaire), (b) immediate criminal summary trials (comparution
immédiate), (c) appearance before the liberty and custody judge (juge
des libertés et de la détention), (d) appearance before the enforcement
judge (juge de l’application des peines) including appeals, these latest
in the events of emergency only, (e) permanence of public prosecutor’s office (permanence
du parquet), (f) hearings relating to investigation chamber for custody (audience
de la chambre d’instruction pour la détention) and (ii) civil
tribunals and courts including (a) children’s courts and permanence in the
events of emergency only (audiences du tribunal pour enfants et du juge pour
enfants et permanence du tribunal pour enfants) - including educational
assistance (assistance educative), (b) summary judgments (including relating
to family matters), but based on emergency only, (c) civil liberties and
custody judge hearings (juge des libertés et de la détention civil).
Due to the risks of contamination, instructions are,
to the extent possible, to cancel criminal court sessions related to crimes (cour
d’assises). It is also allowed to postpone hearings (taking into account reasonable
time extension and pre-trial custody timeframe).
Legal public facilities (services d’accueil du
public) will be closed as well as justice centers and legal access points. Even
if justice civil servants will not be allowed to receive public, they will be
reachable by phone to address emergency situations.
As far as Paris is concerned, the first President of
the court of appeal of Paris issued an ordinance dated 16 March 2020
(N°105/2020) named ordonnance de roulement modificative (amending rotation
ordinance), on the basis of, inter alia, the decision of the Ministry of
justice dated 15 March 2020 triggering continuing plans, article L1142-7 of the
French Code de la défense and emergency. Such article not only states
that (i) the Ministry of Justice ensures in all circumstances the continuity of
the legal criminal services as well as enforcement of criminal sanctions, but
also (ii) he participates in fighting against elements adversely affecting fundamental
interests of the Nation (this including preservation of the population in and
outside France, according to article 410-1 of the French Code pénal).
Aside to the public authorities, the legal profession,
as a whole, may support the economy : it can be suggested that business
lawyers may wish to consider advising their clients to enter into settlement
agreements (within the meaning of article 2044 of the French Code civil) to
solve pending litigations and to unlock commercial situations created by the current
This would give the economy a possibility to maintain
a flow of activity.