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Global Outlook sponsored briefing: The International Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal – France has risen to the challenge

The Paris courts aim to strengthen France’s appeal as a centre for litigation post-Brexit

Paris has long been positioned as one of the leading centres for international commercial arbitration disputes, so the French government’s latest legal initiative should come as no surprise to its European counterparts. Indeed, Paris is no stranger to international dispute resolution as there has existed for more than ten years within its Tribunal of Commerce an International Chamber, formed of ten English-speaking judges, hearing commercial disputes with an international dimension.

To further strengthen the attractiveness of Paris as a financial centre and boost the appeal of its courts to English-speaking litigants engaged in cross-border transactions, the French justice ministry has created a dedicated International Chamber within the Paris Court of Appeal.

On 7 February 2018, the president of the Paris Bar Marie-Aimée Peyron, the president of the Court of Appeal, Chantal Arens, and the attorney general of the Court of Appeal of Paris signed a protocol establishing the International Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Paris (Chambre Internationale de la Cour d’appel de Paris). This chamber has jurisdiction to hear disputes relating to international trade contracts and, mostly, decide appeals from judgments pronounced, in the first instance, by the International Chamber of the Tribunal of Commerce of Paris.

‘Efforts towards establishing the International Chamber are a reflection of France’s business-friendly approach to international disputes.’

Operational since 1 March 2018, the new International Chamber’s most noticeable features are as follows:

  • As a general rule, written pleadings and submissions are to be in French. However, parties are allowed to disclose documents in English without the need for translation into French, and it is possible to hear the evidence of witnesses and experts in English.
  • A strict timetable will be fixed and will include, in particular, the dates on which the parties must exchange their submissions, the dates on which witnesses and experts will be heard and the date on which the judgment is to be issued.
  • This calendar can be amended in the event of an incident or additional request delaying proceedings on the merits of the case.
  • Third-party affidavits or statements may be typed, instead of being handwritten, if the parties waive claims to any defect of form in this respect.
  • Witnesses and experts can be called to give evidence and the parties will have the opportunity to question these witnesses and experts during cross-examination.
  • Judgments will be published in French, along with a sworn translation in English.

These efforts towards establishing the International Chamber are a reflection of the country’s business-friendly approach to international disputes, and the need for the French legal system to adapt to current international changes and challenges.

With the UK set to leave the EU, it is possible, even though not yet certain, that decisions issued by its courts would no longer benefit from the mutual recognition provided by the Brussels Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001). French decisions, on the other hand, will still benefit from the Brussels Regulation on recognition and enforcement of judgments, and thus will be easily enforceable in Europe. This could be appealing to international litigants.

‘The uncertainty of Brexit has provided other member states with an opportunity to offer alternative courts to international litigants.’

It is interesting to note that the French civil procedure is very flexible and may be tailored by the parties. Indeed, article 57-1 of the French Code of Civil Procedure gives the parties the opportunity to manage the dispute themselves. The parties may, in a joint application (if they had not already done so at the onset of the dispute), confer upon the judge the right to decide as an ‘amiable compositeur’ (ie, the judge will make a decision according to the rules of equity). Or, they can confine the judge to the definitions and points of law they wish to have the hearing focused on.

The uncertainty of Brexit for the UK has provided other member states with an opportunity to offer alternative courts to international litigants along with the certainty that their decisions will be freely enforceable across the EU. Such initiatives are being contemplated by Amsterdam, Brussels, Dublin and Frankfurt, but Paris remains the only one to have put pen to paper. It is not France’s aim to transpose common law rules into the French court system, but rather to develop a system within its legal tradition suited to international commercial contracts.

Patrick Dunaud

Patrick Dunaud, partner, Stewarts


Patrick Dunaud joined Stewarts this year as a partner in its commercial litigation team. He has a wealth of expertise in intellectual property litigation, focusing on information technology, media and entertainment, and the luxury industry, among others, and often acts for financial institutions in corporate and securities litigation.

As a highly-regarded litigator with 30 years of unique experience in France and Europe, his work regularly involves an international dimension. He has appeared before civil, commercial and criminal courts, as well as the European Court of Justice, and has represented companies before international arbitration panels.

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