Judgment: what effects?

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Injunctions, summary orders or orders on request, decisions or judgments – rendered at first or last instance – contentious or non-contentious – contradictory, said to be contradictory, deemed to be contradictory by default – before the law or final, provisional or mixed – with authority, res judicata, enforceability – suspended, firm, alternative sentences… How to find your way?


In simple terms:

Before a first judgment on the merits

Before a first judgment on the merits: there is nothing. In principle.

In criminal law, the presumption of innocence is fully respected.

However, various measures are taken at this stage. In summary proceedings or before the law, on an administrative, provisional or interim basis…

These measures often concern the direction of the trial, procedural issues, investigations, expert opinions, the payment of a sum of money to a creditor as a provisional measure, measures justified by evidence or urgency.

Some of them settle certain questions definitively. This is the case, for example, with procedural exceptions.

Some of them are already enforceable and can give rise to seizures…

On delivery of a judgment on the merits

When a judgement is given on the merits: the dispute that has been decided on becomes a res judicata.

This judgment on the merits is final. But final only means that the entirety of a dispute or a block of disputes has been settled. The final judgment does not – definitively – put an end to the case.

Firstly, because there may be other issues to be resolved in the trial. As long as there are still issues to be resolved, the judges are not relieved. The case goes on.

Secondly, because there are usually remedies (opposition, appeal, cassation, etc.) which allow the execution to be suspended, automatically or on application. Material errors or omissions can be rectified. This must of course be requested within a limited timeframe.

Res judicata judgement
A judgment that is no longer subject to an appeal suspending enforcement is “res judicata” (Article 500 of the Code of Civil Procedure). It is therefore in principle “enforceable”.

Because appeals have not been lodged within the time limits. Or because the appeals that were lodged ended up with a decision that cannot be appealed against with suspensive effect.

However, this is not the end of the matter.

An appeal for review could result in the revocation of a judgment that has become res judicata (Article 593 of the Code of Civil Procedure). A judgment may be quashed by a higher court (Cour de cassation).

In principle, a decision is authoritative on the issues it resolves and the essential points raised to reach them. It is definitively binding on the courts and the parties. To reintroduce the case afterwards or otherwise would result in a dismissal.

Even if enforceable, a judgment can be set aside.

Firstly, a debtor can be granted a period of grace.

Secondly, the parties themselves may agree to set it aside or to vary it. For example, the creditor may agree that the debtor should pay his debt in instalments.

Irregular or exaggerated enforcement measures can be challenged in court (enforcement judge).

They come up against practical impossibilities, in particular in case of insolvency of a debtor.

The police may also refuse to enforce it. This refusal may engage the responsibility of the State. This is a classic case of eviction.

It should be added that when all avenues of appeal in France have been exhausted, there may still be appeals at European or international level.

In short, the best thing to do is to talk to your lawyer about it, right?

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