France

1. Is there an exequatur procedure?

Yes. Recognition of a foreign judgment takes place automatically as long as the requirements are met and no grounds for refusal are invoked. Execution can be sought based only on a court declaration of enforceability (exequatur) unless an applicable international instrument provides that exequatur is not necessary.

Exequatur should be issued by the Civil Court (Tribunal de Grande Instance) of the place where the person against which enforcement is sought is domiciled. If that person does not have their domicile in France, exequatur will generally be issued by the civil court of the domicile of the claimant asking for exequatur, or of the place where the decision must be enforced, or the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris.

Except for the facts that the Tribunal de Grande Instance decides as a single-judge court, and that it is sometimes granted through a non-adversarial procedure, the exequatur procedure has no significant procedural features.

See Article L.311-11 and R. 212-8 of the French Code of Judicial Organisation:

Article L. 311-11 Code de Procédure CivileArticle L. 311-11 Code of Judicial Organisation
Les jugements rendus par les tribunaux étrangers et les actes reçus par les officiers étrangers sont exécutoires sur le territoire de la République de la manière et dans les cas prévus par la loi.The Tribunal de Grande Instance hears single-judge applications for recognition and exequatur of foreign judicial decisions and public documents as well as French or foreign arbitral awards.It also hears as a single judge the sales of minors' property and those assimilated to them.The judge can always refer a case as it stands to the collegial formation.
Article R. 212-8 Code de Procédure CivileArticle R. 212-8 Code of Judicial Organisation
Le tribunal de grande instance connaît à juge unique : 1. Des litiges auxquels peuvent donner lieu les accidents de la circulation terrestre ; 2. Des demandes en reconnaissance et en exequatur des décisions judiciaires et actes publics étrangers ainsi que des sentences arbitrales françaises ou étrangères ; 3. Des ventes de biens de mineurs et de celles qui leur sont assimilées.Le juge peut toujours renvoyer une affaire en l'état à la formation collégiale. Cette décision est une me-sure d'administration judiciaire.The Tribunal de Grande Instance hears cases as a single judge regarding: 1. disputes that may arise from land traffic accidents; 2. requests for recognition and enforcement of foreign judicial decisions and public documents as well as French or foreign arbitral awards; and 3. sales of property of minors and those assimilated to them.The judge can always refer a case as it stands to the collegial formation. This decision is a measure of judicial administration.
 

2. What are the applicable statutes?

2.1 Recognition enforcement of judicial decisions in general civil matters

Unless an international convention or European regulation is applicable, recognition and enforcement in general civil matters are subject to Article 509 of the French Code of Civil Procedure:

Article 509 Code de Procédure CivileArticle 509 Code of Civil Procedure
Les jugements rendus par les tribunaux étrangers et les actes reçus par les officiers étrangers sont exécutoires sur le territoire de la République de la manière et dans les cas prévus par la loi.Judgments rendered by foreign courts and acts received by foreign officers shall be enforceable in the territory of the Republic in the manner and in the cases provided for by law.

Most importantly, traditional and relevant French case law gives the following conditions for enforcement:

  • significant connection between the case and the foreign seized judge;
  • absence of violation of an exclusive French jurisdiction;
  • absence of fraud;
  • compatibility with the French international public policy;
  • absence of conflict of decisions.

2.2 Arbitral awards

The recognition and enforcement of awards handed down by arbitral courts in international cases are governed by Articles 1514 to 1517 of the French Code of Civil Procedure and in compliance with the requirements laid down by the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958.

Article 1514 Code de Procédure CivilArticle 1514 Code of Civil Procedure
Les sentences arbitrales sont reconnues ou exécutées en France si leur existence est établie par celui qui s'en prévaut et si cette reconnaissance ou cette exécution n'est pas manifestement contraire à l'ordre public international.Arbitral awards shall be recognised or enforced in France if their existence is established by the person claiming them and if such recognition or enforcement is not manifestly contrary to international public policy.
Article 1515 Code de Procédure CivilArticle 1515 Code of Civil Procedure
L'existence d'une sentence arbitrale est établie par la production de l'original accompagné de la convention d'arbitrage ou des copies de ces documents réunissant les conditions requises pour leur authenticité.Si ces documents ne sont pas rédigés en langue française, la partie requérante en produit une traduction. Elle peut être invitée à produire une traduction établie par un traducteur inscrit sur une liste d'experts judiciaires ou par un traducteur habilité à intervenir auprès des autorités judiciaires ou administratives d'un autre Etat membre de l'Union européenne, d'un Etat partie à l'accord sur l'Espace économique européen ou de la Confédération suisse.The existence of an arbitral award shall be established by the production of the original accompanied by the arbitration agreement or copies of such documents meeting the conditions required for their authenticity.If these documents are not written in French, the requesting party shall produce a translation thereof. It may be asked to produce a translation drawn up by a translator registered on a list of judicial experts or by a translator authorised to deal with the judicial or administrative authorities of another Member State of the European Union, of a state party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area or of the Swiss Confederation.
Article 1516 Code de Procédure CivilArticle 1516 Code of Civil Procedure
La sentence arbitrale n'est susceptible d'exécution forcée qu'en vertu d'une ordonnance d'exequatur émanant du tribunal de grande instance dans le ressort duquel elle été rendue ou du tribunal de grande instance de Paris lorsqu'elle a été rendue à l'étranger.La procédure relative à la demande d'exequatur n'est pas contradictoire.La requête est déposée par la partie la plus diligente au greffe de la juridiction accompagnée de l'original de la sentence et d'un exemplaire de la convention d'arbitrage ou de leurs copies réunissant les conditions requises pour leur authenticité.The arbitral award may only be enforced by virtue of an exequatur order issued by the court of first instance within whose jurisdiction it was issued, or by the Paris court of first instance when it was issued abroad.The procedure relating to the application for exequatur is not contradictory.The request shall be filed by the most diligent party at the court registry accompanied by the original of the award and a copy of the arbitration agreement or copies thereof meeting the conditions required for their authenticity.
Article,1516 Code de Procédure CivilArticle,1517 Code of Civil Procedure
L'exequatur est apposé sur l'original ou, si celui-ci n'est pas produit, sur la copie de la sentence arbitrale répondant aux conditions prévues au dernier alinéa de l'article 1516.Lorsque la sentence arbitrale n'est pas rédigée en langue française, l'exequatur est également apposé sur la traduction opérée dans les conditions prévues à l'article 1515.L'ordonnance qui refuse d'accorder l'exequatur à la sentence arbitrale est motivée.The exequatur shall be affixed to the original or, if it is not produced, to the copy of the arbitral award meeting the conditions provided for in the last paragraph of Article,1516.Where the arbitral award is not written in French, the exequatur shall also be applied to the translation made under the conditions provided for in Article 1515.An order refusing to grant exequatur to the arbitral award shall state the reasons on which it is based.

3. What are the important judicial precedents?

  • The scope of the control carried out by the judge (in cases where there is no applicable international instrument) has been defined over time by French case law. There a few important judicial precedents. These include: Munzer case (French Supreme Court, 7 January 1964): The judge is prohibited from engaging in a review of the merits of the foreign judgment.
  • Bachir case (French Supreme Court, 4 October 1967): The judge must verify that the proceeding which took place before the foreign jurisdiction was “regular” (with respect to French international public policy concerns and basic defence rights, such as the right to be represented by legal counsel)
  • Simitch case (French Supreme Court, 6 February 1985): the French judge must check that the case had sufficient connection with the foreign judge, and that the decision was not rendered in violation of a ground for exclusive French jurisdiction over the case (which is, for instance, the case if there was a jurisdiction clause giving jurisdiction to a French judge);
  • Cornelissen case (French Supreme Court, 20 February 2007): since then, the French judge cannot refuse an exequatur order on the ground that the foreign judge did not apply the law that was applicable pursuant to the conflict of law rules applied by the French judge.

4. Does the exequatur procedure mean that the case must be retried on the merits?

No, it was established in Munzer (French Supreme Court, 7 January 1964) that the judge is prohibited from reviewing the foreign decision on the merits.

5. How long does the exequatur procedure take?

The timeframe for the proceedings to grant enforcement depends on the procedural path chosen by the claimant (adversarial or non-adversarial), court congestion, and possible delays requested by the parties. In practice, it can take from a few days to a few months.

6. Is the opponent given the opportunity to challenge the exequatur?

Yes. The defendant may appeal the decision regarding the enforceability of a foreign judgment.

Authors

Bourgeois Laura Avocat Contentieux
Laura Bourgeois
Jean-Fabrice Brun 2020 - 600x600
Jean-Fabrice Brun