The French Ministry of Justice issued a press release just after the announcements of the President of the French Republic. The aim, due to the emergency, is to protect citizens who are the most vulnerable and to curb the epidemic.
Chancery has now prepared continuing plans to allow Justice to face core obligations of the Nation.
According to a CNB release dated 15 March 2020, the continuing plans will be triggered as from 16 March 2020 by the Ministry of Justice to avoid propagation of COVID-19. Tribunal and courts will be closed, except for cases relating to core litigations.
Core litigations are limited to criminal tribunals and courts including pre-trial custody and probation, immediate criminal summary trials, appearance before the liberty and custody judge, appearance before the enforcement judge including appeals, these latest in the events of emergency only, permanence of public prosecutor’s office, hearings relating to investigation chamber for custody and civil tribunals and courts including children’s courts and permanence in the events of emergency only – including educational assistance, summary judgments, but based on emergency only, civil liberties and custody judge hearings.
Due to the risks of contamination, instructions are, to the extent possible, to cancel criminal court sessions related to crimes. It is also allowed to postpone hearings.
Legal public facilities will be closed as well as justice centres and legal access points. Even if justice civil servants will not be allowed to receive public, they will be reachable by phone to address emergency situations.
As far as Paris is concerned, the first President of the court of appeal of Paris issued an ordinance dated 16 March 2020 named ordonnance de roulement modificative, on the basis of, inter alia, the decision of the Ministry of justice dated 15 March 2020 triggering continuing plans, article L1142-7 of the French Code de la Défense and emergency.
Such article not only states that the Ministry of Justice ensures in all circumstances the continuity of the legal criminal services as well as enforcement of criminal sanctions, but also he participates in fighting against elements adversely affecting fundamental interests of the Nation.
Aside to the public authorities, the legal profession, as a whole, may support the economy: it can be suggested that business lawyers may wish to consider advising their clients to enter into settlement agreements to solve pending litigations and to unlock commercial situations created by the current sanitary crisis.