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International News

France's Magistrates 'And Magistrates' Courts Merge And Become Courts Of Justice

March 16, 2020 posted by Steve Brownstein

January 1, 2020 marked  the merger of TI (Courts of First Instance) and TGI (Courts of First Instance) to become courts of justice. According to the government, no site will be closed to preserve local jurisdictions, but the process leaves judges and magistrates in "professional blur" inconvenient. Explanations.
According to the justice reform implemented on March 23, the government wants to rationalize the jurisdictions. This is how the district and district courts merged on January 1, 2020. Here are the changes that follow.
The current state of play
The district and district courts are local courts. Since 1958, magistrates, also nicknamed "the judges of the poor", used to deal with cases where the sums at stake were less than 10,000 euros.
Thus, their role was to settle everyday affairs, which could arise from poorly executed work, conflicts following a traffic accident, rental evictions, debts, guardianships, etc.
The new face of French justice
It has been over two years that there has been talk of reorganizing the judicial institutions. According to Nicole Belloubet, Keeper of the Seals, it is necessary that access to justice should only be done through a "single door". In fact, cases have hitherto generally been assigned to the district or high court, depending on the amount of the dispute.
On January 1, 2020, the 285 district courts and the 164 district courts of the territory merged to give birth to a single institution: the judicial court .
A merger is compulsory as soon as a TGI is located in the same municipality as a district court. This concerns no less than 57% of the courts. If the district court is located in another municipality, it then becomes a room detached from the court. Its name also changes to become the “local court”.
This modernization of justice, according to the government, would improve the courts and reduce the expenses related to their operation.
What changes are expected in the courts?
Being local courts, magistrates and lawyers are afraid that access to judges will be more complex and that small courts will thus be devitalized . However, even if the merger of the two entities is proclaimed, the State indicates and insists that no site will be closed.
Another change, the magistrates will no longer be called as such . Their title will henceforth be “protection litigation judges”. However, magistrates specializing in cases related to economic and social vulnerabilities will remain in place. Indeed, the Keeper of the Seals had to give up abolishing this profession after an uprising of opponents of the reform. However, the lack of information concerning the competences of the said magistrates hardly reassures them.
Some local courts will be given additional powers in order to "adapt to the specific needs of the territories". Various decrees will indicate which, but for the moment, the precise calendar is not known.
What changes are expected for citizens?
Until now, individuals could go to the registry of the district court to have their case argued. Now, with the new reform and the merger of the courts, individuals will more often be referred to dematerialized procedures . Indeed, if they wish, their case can then be dealt with without a hearing. The procedure will then be entirely written, but, depending on the case, the judge may then request a hearing if he considers it necessary.
Finally, representation by a lawyer which was previously optional in certain cases now becomes compulsory in many cases .
Judges, lawyers and magistrates still in limbo
Céline Parisot is president of the USM (Union syndicale des magistrats). For her, the upheaval of this reform is too abrupt and lacks clarity. "Are many investigative judges' offices going to be abolished? Sentencing judges? We don't know, we have no visibility. "
A speech joined by that of Kathia Dubreuil, president of the SM (Syndicat de la magistrature), who deplores a lack of communication and consultation. "Our colleagues do not know what the heads of court proposed to the minister."
For professionals in the profession, this merger was carried out blindly and in a rush. Courts do not hesitate to speak of economies of scale, achieved by pooling the staff of court registers and industrial tribunals. The announcement of the maintenance of sites in France, despite the merger, does little to reassure the unions, who fear, ultimately, the closure of local courts.

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