Can someone explain the difference between French law and English law?

Aug 2019
13
Canada
I’m looking for a layman’s explanation. Discussion appreciated.
Thanks so much
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,799
three main differences for mine, NOT a lawyer, or even that well read on law. So cheap seats opinion. (others feel free to correct) it's very laymen explanation.

(1) Adversarial V inquisitional

The British have adversarial system - the Judge is the referee on the trail not an active parcipant.

The French an inquisitional system - the judge is active during the investigation and trail.

"In an inquisitorial system, the trial judges (mostly plural in serious crimes) are inquisitors who actively participate in fact-finding public inquiry by questioning defense, prosecutors, and witnesses. They could even order certain pieces of evidence to be examined if they find presentation by the defense or prosecution to be inadequate. Prior to the case getting to trial, magistrate judges (juges d'instruction in France) participate in the investigation of a case, often assessing material by police and consulting with the prosecutor. "

(2) Common law, lack of codification relient on interpretation and Precdent (British) V Codidifief law system less leeway for judge intreprtation , precedant and judges making law does not happen. So while the Briitsh udges are not active in teh trail their judgements have a lot more leeway and Judges can exert oioion in teh grey areas of law which are many more.


(3) No juries in civil cases.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,401
Italy, Lago Maggiore
When I studied law and rights [my education is economical, but in Italy this meas to study law as well] they explained to me that the difference is first of all historical: in the continent [in France as in Italy] there is the "Civil Law", that is to say a system of laws coming from the Roman one. The term gives a suggestion about the original source: the Corpus Juris Civilis [the Justinian Code, issued by Justinian I in VI century CE].

I can add a couple of thoughts.

In good substance, as noted above mentioning the Common Law, the Civil Law is legislative, that is to say based on written laws, the value of the jurisprudence is limited to the interpretation of the laws [in Italy there is a Supreme Court in Rome which does this]. This means that a magistrate will never follow the example of an other verdict to judge, he / she will follow the law. What can happen is that, not to have problem with the Supreme Court in the Capital, the judge could consider how the Supreme Judges tend to interprete that law [but it's not automatic that the judge will follow the Supreme Court].

An other important point, which makes the pair with the inquisitional system, is that, usually where there is the Civil Law all the judges are separated from the executive. In France, like in Italy, the executive power has been able to obtain [with a virdict of the Constitutional Court] the possibility to give a political orientation to the magistrates of the "Parquet" [the ones who accuse]. In countries where there is the Common Law it's possible that the prosecutor works for the government. in France [like in Italy] prosecutors are part of the same corp with the judges [they are substantially judges as well].
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,531
English has trial by jury and innocent until proven guilty in criminal cases. It also has common law based on previous judges decisions and not an actual written law.

French law in based on Roman law, and most continental European law is more similar to French law than English law. Napoleonic law influenced many countries of Europe, and was based on older French law and Roman law.

The Quebec Act of 1774 (perhaps coincidentally one year before rebellion broke out in Boston) allowed French law in Quebec, as well as the French language and tolerance of the Roman Catholic religion. It also gave huge territory in what is now the US to Quebec. Louisiana basically uses French law, with certain things tacked on like juries.
 
Feb 2017
256
Devon, UK
Just a quick interjection to say that there is (technically) no such thing as 'British Law' per se.

English (inc Wales) law differs from Scottish law, English criminal law allows for only two verdicts, 'guilty' or 'not guilty'. Scottish criminal law has a third potential verdict of 'not proven'.

The Supreme Court bench contains judges from both systems. The recent case against the Government concerning the prorogation of parliament was referred to the Supreme Court by the Scottish Court of Sessions.
 
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Feb 2017
256
Devon, UK
And of course I've just realised that what I wrote above is pretty much irrelevant to the discussion because the OP clearly states the question was about English law.

Didn't there used to be an edit function on our own posts, has it been removed?
 
Jul 2019
850
New Jersey
And of course I've just realised that what I wrote above is pretty much irrelevant to the discussion because the OP clearly states the question was about English law.

Didn't there used to be an edit function on our own posts, has it been removed?
I think you have an hour to do so. After that, the button disappears.
 
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Mar 2018
896
UK
The French an inquisitional system - the judge is active during the investigation and trail.
It's a different judge. There's an investigate judge, who tells the police how to conduct the investigate; and a trial judge (often a panel of three actually) who conduct the trial find guilty/not guilty and decide on the sentence. The thinking behind this is that the police are likely to be biased towards the prosecution and so someone more neutral should lead the investigation. I'd also note that Juries are much rather in English law than American law. It is common for "minor" cases for it to be the same judge/magistrate who conducts the trial and passes sentence.

Another difference, career wise at least, is that judges in the UK are former barristers with lots of experience who get "promoted" to be a judge. In France, it's a different career from the start with different training.

But I'd say the biggest difference is that case law is (more or less) binding in England, but (more or less) meaningless in France. One shouldn't place too much emphasis on this, it comes with many caveats in both cases.
 
Aug 2019
13
Canada
Hi everyone.

Thanks for helping me see the difference. What I’m seeing is that the French system has more judges involved and the English has more justices and case law?


A question I have is which system would you rather be living in?

Thanks,
Ivan