This is a guest post by Nicolas Boring, French foreign law specialist at the Law Library of Congress. Nicolas has previously blogged FALQs: Freedom of Speech in France and co-collaborated on the post, Does the Haitian Criminal Code Outlaw Making Zombies.
I took a few days of vacation to visit relatives in France back in December, and I took this opportunity to snap a few pictures of some noteworthy Parisian judicial buildings. In this post, I will share pictures of the famous Palais de Justice (Palace of Justice), one of France’s most important judicial buildings as well as one of the most important historical sites in Paris.
The Palais de Justice is located on the Île de la Cité, in the very heart of Paris. Originally called the Palais de la Cité (Palace of the City), it appears to have originally been built in the 10th century on the site of a former Roman palace. It served as the main residence of many French kings until Charles V moved the royal court to the Louvres Palace in the 14th century. After that, part of it was turned into a prison, while another part served as the seat of the French Parliament under the monarchy, and then as the seat of revolutionary tribunals during the French Revolution. The Palais underwent significant restructuring and renovation during the 19th century to become the main courthouse of Paris.
The place is huge, and though all the parts are physically connected, I think it can best be described as a compound rather than as a single building. In addition to the courts and related facilities, it encompasses two well-known tourist attractions: the beautiful Sainte-Chapelle, and the notorious Conciergerie,where Marie-Antoinette (among many others) spent her last days before being guillotined during the French Revolution.
Nowadays, the former palace houses the Tribunal de Grande Instance (the main type of trial court in the French judicial system) of Paris, the Paris Court of Appeals, and the Cour de cassation. The Cour de cassation is France’s highest court in civil and criminal matters – roughly comparable to the U.S. Supreme Court, except that it does not have jurisdiction over administrative law matters (which fall under the jurisdiction of the Conseil d’Etat), and it does not have the authority to invalidate a law as being unconstitutional (only the Conseil constitutionnel can do that).