Being taken to a Tribunal

Our tenant, who left 18 months ago, is taking us to a Tribunal for a variety of issues relating to her tenancy.

I don't want to go into the details, and we are going to see an avocat tomorrow to prepare our case.

I really just want to know what we can expect during the time we are in Court - how formal is it, should we wear posh clothes, do we talk or do we leave it to the avocat, how can we avoid seeing and talking to the other party...etc etc.

It may not help that I am reading Bleak House at the moment - so any helpful advice and useful tips and hints would be really welcome - thank you so much!

Not a lawyer to be found in Heaven, right?

Well I am a lawyer and I live in heaven - the south-west of France!

Q -What do you call 500 lawyers on the ocean floor?

A- A start...

Thank you to all.

I have just seen an avocat and we will work through the defence together - I have plenty of papers to show!

Saint Peter stood at the Pearly Gates and a soul in deep distress told him there must have been some dreadful mistake - his papers were wrong and he was due to enter Heaven and not the other place.

Saint Peter took pity on him and ordered a seraphim to find a lawyer so that the man could properly present his case. He waited for what seemed an eternity: eventually the seraphim returned but with no lawyer alongside. Peter was very cross - why had the seraphim not done as he had asked? Well, said the seraphim, I looked all over but I couldn't find a lawyer anywhere.

Hello Rosie,

Sorry to hear about your problem. As a (retired) solicitor from England, I can tell you that although basic principles of law are often very similar in France, there are nevertheless many differences.

There are certainly substantial differences in practice and procedure - there is more reading of documents than there is speaking by lawyers, parties or witnesses.

You must be sure that your avocat fully understands your case and provide him/her with ALL the facts available.

If you are uncertain about the avocat whom you have consulted I do know quite well a very good avocat who speaks excellent English and is quick at understanding the important points and issues. He is, of course, also fully-versed in French practice and procedure. He is a member of the Bar in Bordeaux, which may not be geographically suitable for you - but I do not know where you live.

I wish you well with your defence.

Gordon, I and many others in our village are convinced that I have been the victim in a case of coup monte, basically shafted, for causing damage to a parked car and leaving without supplying my insurance details. I was accused of a delite de fuite.

Exactly the same happened to me, except in my case the gendarme asked me to come to make my statement in my car and after doing that I asked him if someone had taken pictures of the damage. No they hadn't. I wanted this done and asked to see the pictures of the damage done to the other car. The sergeant couldn't find them and went to take photos of my car. He indicated to my official witness that the scratches on my car, which had been done to us by someone in a supermarket car park, did not match the marks on the other car. Despite this they managed to find witnesses to say that they had seen me leaving without putting the details of my insurance on the windscreen of the other car involved.

This all happened in a marketplace and another friend went and asked one of the stallholders if they had been asked to give a statement and he said no, despite us being assured by the sergeant that he had asked all the stallholders if they had witnessed the incident.

To make matters worse the husband of the person involved was a retired gendarme and the ex-mayor of our commune. Our new mayor went to see the gendarmerie on my behalf to tell them that the woman involved, the owner of the car, was well known in our village for causing trouble, but was told that he could not do anything about it.

The driver of the other car marked the damage supposedly caused by my car on her case to her insurers, despite never having seen my car.

Their insurance started threatening me when I was seriously ill in hospital and our insurers paid up so that it would not have to worry about being summoned for non-payment on top of the delite de fuite.

We went to see an avocat for a preliminary opinion and was told that it was not a serious matter and that the worst thing that could probably happen was that I would receive a 300 /400 euro fine!

I was recalled to the gendarmerie to hear that other witnesses had been 'found' and would I change my mind about saying it was not me? The sergeant then telephoned the procureur, who said that because the damage had been paid for, they would proceed no further.

I had been assured by the sergeant that the cases for the insurance and the police were totally separate, which was yet another piece of fiction.

I was called back yet again because the sergeant's boss said that the file was incomplete and I had to have my fingerprints and photo taken like a common criminal.

My husband was so incensed that he started thinking about returning to UK and would have done so had we not had the wonderful support and friendship of the people in our village.

All this happened when I went to our next village to get a prescription for my husband. We do not shop there now at all.

Despite the fact that I, so far, have not had to go to a tribunal, our opinion of the French system is not printable on this page. I am still waiting for the official release from the charge of the delite de fuite.

We too have installed a dashboard camera.

I have had a very similar experience, my insurance paid out despite the fact that the other driver was on my side of the road, cutting a corner and going way too fast. He said that I was on the wrong side of the road, which is why he skidded off into a ditch. No-one measured the skidmarks nor the tree that he hit on the LEFT!

After that and being done for passing a red light by Police Municipale when we were all in absolute gridlock I got a dashcam.

Some French insurers advise anyone in an accident with a Brit to say that we were on the wrong side of the road because we had "forgotten" we were in France.

I had to attend court recently as I was being sued for compensation. As the amount was less than 4000 euros it was dealt with in open court. The process was simple & involved a kind of "Judge Judy" set-up. I had no need of legal representation but I took along a friend with fluent french to make sure that I did not miss any nuances but he did not need to be court approved.

The plaintiff is asked to put his case (he likewise represented himself) after which I was able to put mine. It was quite simple & not at all intimidating!

The court dismissed his case.

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Richard, what you describe is pretty much what takes place in the UK, well England to be precise.

And indeed it is what you would expect, the opposing avocats/barristers/solicitors exchange opinions, evidence so that in many situation the case is resolved before kit reaches court. This reduces costs and court time.

Acting in their clients best interests does not mean they can or should ignore the evidence and the relative strength or weakness of their client's case or that of their opponent but they should bring a sense of proportion, balance and perspective that plaintiffs often lose so that the risk of vexatious litigation is reduced.

They will of course work in their clients best interests and use the law and its technical procedures to the maximum. Their job is to see that the law is followed correctly and their assessment of the evidence will should determine the outcome.

Are there manipulative lawyers, working at the boundaries of their profession? Yes, of course but then your lawyer should be competent to deal with that and the judge (themselves not always unbiased or all seeing) should stop such activity.

Our experience (for a traffic incident) has left us totally disillusioned with the French legal system.

We came away feeling that if the other party is French you have lost before you even begin.

When we thought back to our very first interview with the second Avocat (the first one being useless) he was actually trying to tell us that at the time!

At the tribunal it was a pantomime - reminded us of some medieval court where there is so much noise going on and every case being heard is present in the room.

It turned out that the Avocat representing the other party was the wife of the first Avocat we had recommended to us who we had sacked!

We were later told by friends who have been here a long time that as is said in another post - it`s all sorted out beforehand by the Avocats.

We paid thousands to be represented - all our pre court interviews had been with the main man - on the day of the hearing he sent a junior whom we had never met!

Despite us paying for independent evidence from a bailiff who measured all the marks left in the road - which proved we were on the correct side of the road at the time of the collision we lost the case.

I now have dash board cameras in both cars recording all the time!

We are due to go to tribunal against a tenant of ours who left last July. We were initially put off the idea in the belief that you need to appoint an Avocat but we are using a court registered translator who will prove to be much cheaper. Good luck

You don’t attend. All that happens is they set a date and the lawyers on both sides place a file on the judges desk. You can go but you are not allowed to speak and you just watch your lawyer put the file on the desk and make some remarks. All the argument is in the papers and the judge gives a date that he will provide his/ their judgement. There were three judges when someone took us to court.

The process is lengthy it took a year for the first judgement and another year that they appealed.

It’s a very logical and sensible process. What is annoying is they get legal aid and even if there is no material change in the facts they are incentivised to appeal. Which drags it all out.

You must comply with any ruling of the judge the people who took us to court did not pay the damages awarded to us before it went to court at the appeal and the judge went ballistic that they were in contempt of court. He at one stage said he would not take the appeal because they had ignored the other judgement.

It was expensive to defend we had to but it cost us about €5000 and we were awarded cost which they have never paid.

I agree with Helen. The key point to remember is that unlike the UK where lawyers have a duty to act in their client's best interests, in France this concept is very absent. So choose your avocat very very carefully, since everything is presented by him, and I suspect a lot of 'backroom agreements' are made between avocats even before it comes before the judge. I feel that if both avocats have taken their fee, the rest is immaterial.

Le diable dit à un avocat :
– Je vais faire de toi le plus grand avocat du monde. Tu gagneras tous les ans plus d’argent que Bill Gates et le Sultan de Brunei réunis ! En échange, je prendrai les âmes de ta femme et de tes enfants, qui passeront l’éternité en Enfer avec moi.
L’avocat lui répond :
– Ça a l’air bien, mais où est le piège ?

I have only ever been to a family court / tribunal for myself but it is within the main tribunal.

Everyone I saw wore casual smart clothes. Unfortunately no real way to 'avoid' the other party as such - everyone waits in a waiting area until their case is called, although there are 'quiet areas' for you to speak to your avocat.

When actually in the tribunal my own experience was the avocat does all the talking, I actually got told of by the juge for starting to say something the other avocat had said was untrue