“France has been condemned on several occasions by the European Court of Human Rights due to the excessive length of legal proceedings”


TEveryone who, directly or indirectly, has ever been confronted with French justice knows: it is very slow. Too slowly. The problem affects all jurisdictions, everywhere in the country. And unfortunately it does not tend to go away.

One of the main causes is that the State does not provide sufficient resources to justice to allow it to function normally. According to the latest report from the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice, the average duration of a civil case at first instance in France is 420 days, compared to 219 days in Germany, 206 days in Denmark and 146 days in the Czech Republic. . The European average is 201 days.

France has been condemned on several occasions by the European Court of Human Rights due to the excessive length of legal proceedings, on the basis of Article 6-1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This text states that Everyone has the right to have their case heard (…) within a reasonable time » (for example, ECHR, May 12, 2022, Tabouret v. France, application no. 43078/15).

Bringing into play the responsibility of the State

The main victims of this negligence are the litigants, who endure excessively long procedures, when they do not simply give up on erting their rights. This is why more and more litigants who are victims of these extended delays are initiating a procedure that is still little known and too little implemented: that aimed at bringing into play the liability of the State for defective functioning of the public service of justice.

Litigation – which falls within the jurisdiction of the judicial court – aims to obtain compensation for the damage caused by abnormally long delays in a procedure, whether judicial, administrative or criminal. It is open to all litigants, even those who were not initiators of the procedure undergone.

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The amount of compensation awarded varies depending on the total duration of the procedure under which the litigant requests compensation. Concretely, judges use a reference scale to ess the delays accumulated between each stage of the procedure in relation to the deadlines “acceptable” which the litigant could reasonably expect. It being specified that delays caused by the behavior of the parties are not taken into account.

Allocate more resources to justice

For example, in industrial matters, judges consider that a period of three months between referral to the court and the first so-called conciliation hearing is reasonable. Each month of delay is compensated – on average – between 150 and 250 euros. To this is generally added the conviction for all or part of the procedural costs – including lawyer’s fees. In practice, many disputes involving State responsibility result in amicable agreements, because, when they are well handled, the State’s fault is almost systematically upheld.

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