The Position of Foreign States before National Courts: Chiefly in Continental Europe

By Eleanor Wyllys Allen | Go to book overview

THE POSITION OF FOREIGN STATES
BEFORE FRENCH COURTS

CHAPTER I
JURISDICTION OVER FOREIGN STATES AND SOVEREIGNS

IN France the principle of the immunity of foreign states from the jurisdiction of domestic courts, and the freedom of their property from seizure has received broad application. As regards the French government, the system of administrative courts, notably the Conseil d'Êtat, affords a happy method of reconciling a theoretical independence of judicial control with a practical means of seeing justice done, even when the state is the offender. This system, however, is not applied to foreign states, one reason being that such states have no similar jurisdiction to offer in return.

Attitude of Courts to French Government

The efforts that have been made to bring suits against foreign governments, in derogation of the international-law principle of independence and equality, have for the most part been founded upon Article 14 of the Code civil, which permits suits in French courts against foreigners, even non-residents, for the enforcement of obligations contracted at home or abroad with a Frenchman. This provision was extended by the lower tribunals so as to bring foreign states within the judicial competence of the French courts, although it was recognized that even as applied to individual foreigners it constituted an exception to the general rules for determining the limits of a state's jurisdiction. On January 22, 1849, the Court of Cassation definitely settled this point, holding that the article in question was not applicable to a foreign state, which could not be subjected against its will to the jurisdiction of French courts.

Competence vis-à-vis Foreign State

Before this decision by the Court of Cassation, several judgments had been rendered to the same effect by inferior

Decisions of Lower Courts Prior to 1849

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