Since the announcement by Chancellery on Sunday, 15 March 2020, of the closure of all courts in France as of 16 March 2020 and until further notice, as well as the postponement of all hearings except those relating to "essential litigation", only the following hearings are maintained:

  • correctional hearings for pre-trial detention and judicial review measures,
  • immediate appearance hearings,
  • presentations before the examining magistrate and the liberty and custody judge,
  • hearings of the sentencing judge,
  • juvenile court and juvenile judge hearings for emergency management, the public prosecutor's office.

In civil matters, as a general rule, all hearings will be systematically postponed. Only absolute civil emergencies, summary proceedings and motions will be handled. Thus, a permanent office has been set up to deal with authorizations to summon in hourly summary proceedings in cases of extreme urgency or urgent requests for seizure of assets. As you can imagine, the assessment of urgency will be extremely strict, especially for debt recovery, taking into account the instructions and calls of the President and the Government to adopt a responsible and united behavior.

With regard to commercial litigation, the following courts have communicated their modus operandi for the coming weeks:

  • At the Commercial Court of Paris, all litigation is postponed until 20 April and hearings will be cancelled, with the exception of those concerning the treatment of corporate difficulties, which will continue to operate in a deteriorated mode,
  • The Commercial Court of Nanterre has decided to postpone the pre-trial hearings until May and the summary proceedings are suspended except in extreme urgency and refers to the Registry's website for the follow-up of the proceedings and for obtaining the dates of postponement,
  • The Commercial Court of Versailles has set a detailed timetable for the postponement of hearings, which can be consulted on the Registry's website,
  • The Commercial Court of Bobigny has announced the cancellation of all future hearings and invites the parties to refer to the Court via the Registry's website at tribunaldigital.fr.
  • Finally, according to the amending order of March 16, 2020, only the hearings for essential and urgent litigation of the Paris Court of Appeal will be maintained under conditions specified in the order. The civil hearings scheduled to be held before April 30, 2020 before clusters 1 to 6 are all postponed to a hearing after September 28, 2020.

In criminal matters, only proceedings involving pre-trial detention and judicial oversight, particularly for the most serious violence, will be maintained. Thus, the permanent offices related to liberty disputes and police custody will be maintained but staffed by fewer lawyers than usual.

While referral to a court is almost impossible due to the containment measures and can only be envisaged for extremely urgent requests, recourse to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) remains possible and shall therefore be preferred for the resolution of disputes.

Unlike judicial litigation, mediation can be implemented remotely and meetings can be organised and held by videoconference.

Similarly, many arbitration institutions around the world remain open and encourage parties to hold hearings and meetings remotely. Referral to an arbitral tribunal will also allow to interrupt limitation periods. Similarly, in accordance with article 2238 of the Civil Code, recourse to mediation or conciliation suspends limitation periods.

In this respect, Chancellery has put in place a moratorium on time limits, appeals and limitation periods, which would take effect retroactively from 14 March 2020 until the end of the confinement period. An emergency bill was presented yesterday to the Council of Ministers authorizing the government to proceed by way of an order to adapt the rules of procedure. This order should be presented on Wednesday, March 24, 2020.

The use of alternative dispute resolution methods is part of a strong trend in the development of litigation; the reform introduced by the decrees of December 2019 aims to establish a dematerialized, decentralized and amicable procedure. The President of the Court of Cassation has also indicated that recourse to the judge should become an alternative method of dispute resolution.

Therefore, the crisis we are facing is an opportunity to reinvent litigation, to change habits in this area and to get acquainted with methods of dispute resolution that are nowadays alternative, but which should become the main way of settling disputes.

Our lawyers, with more than twenty years of experience in this field, are therefore at your disposal to analyse your contracts and, in particular, their arbitration and mediation clauses, if any, in order to establish with you a strategy for resolving the dispute. Mediation can also be proposed in the absence of a clause. Here again, our experience allows us to demonstrate to the opposing party the advantage of using mediation.

Finally, mediation also makes it possible to better understand and convey the nature of the difficulties encountered, as well as the financial and economic position of each of the companies involved.