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France: Open data future for court rulings

Beau de Loménie explain the timelines set out in France for the release of court rulings to the public, although further patience is required in concern of first instance decisions

In its decision of January 21 2021, the French Administrative Supreme Court (Conseil d’Etat) gave three months to the Minister of Justice to issue an order setting out the date from which court rulings would be made available to the public. This has now been carried out with a slight delay with the publication of the order of April 28 2021.

At the present time, only an extremely small percentage of the rulings handed down by French courts are made available to the public free of charge in electronic format. In the framework of the parliamentary debates in April 2016, speaking about a draft bill concerning a ‘digital republic’, Senator Évelyne Didier mentioned that less than 1% of first instance and appeal decisions are available on Légifrance, a French public service providing access to legal texts including laws and rules in force. She added that the other decisions are sold to various subscribers, among them private companies specialised in legal publications.

A few numbers enable one to have an idea of the volume of court rulings handed down in France according to the type of legal dispute, and to realise that the work that still has to be carried out to complete what was referred to as ‘a mammoth task’ byJean-Jacques Urvoas, when he was Minister of Justice.

In 2019, no less than 2,250,217 court rulings were issued in civil and commercial cases, 812,249 in criminal cases and 267,809in administrative cases. Less than 15,000 court decisions, essentially ones handed down by the French Civil Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation), are made available online each year by Légifrance. The goal is now to distribute more than 3 million decisions per year.

The task of making court rulings available to the public in civil cases will be spread out over several years:

Certain decisions handed down by the courts concerning legal disputes which are of general public interest, will however be made available to the public prior to the target dates indicated in this general plan. Although, at present, no order has been issued setting forth any specific calendar in this respect, nor has a list of the decisions concerned been released.

According to the timeframe provided by the government, starting from the fourth quarter of 2025, decisions of the Paris court will be made available online free of charge on a dedicated website, six months after the decision.

If it is indeed ‘tomorrow’ that all of the decisions of the Cour de cassation and the Conseil d’Etat will be made available, a certain degree of patience will be necessary concerning first instance decisions which are of particular importance in the study of intellectual property.

Cabinet Beau de LoménieE:

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