Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

French Legal Research Guide

This in-depth guide will help researchers navigate French legal materials.

Statutes

In addition to the resources below, consult the Foreign Law Guide, an online database of foreign law primary sources. The entry for France includes legal-historical background materials, a list of the primary sources for statutes, regulations, case law and other sources of law, individual laws listed by subject heading, Internet sources for French legal resources, and a good selection of English-language translations. French statutes are not available on Lexis or Westlaw.

The codes are divided into parts: L.O. (organic laws) and L. (laws), that are regrouped in the legislative part; R. (decrees of the Conseil d'État) and D. (simple decrees), that are regrouped in the regulation part.

English Translations

Some French laws are translated into English. Note that English translations are never official and they may not reflect recent changes in the law. This is true of online translations, tooEnglish translations of the different subject French codes can also be found through the Légifrance website.

Here is a sampling of some of the most commonly used codes and their availability in both print and electronic formats:

Code Civil

The Code Civil is the official federal law for France. We have the Code Civil as published by Dalloz (the red books) dating back to 1975. The text of this publication is in French.

  • Official versions of the Code Civil online through Légifrance
  • Unofficial English translation of the Code Civil text also available through Légifrance
  • Code Civil in print at KJV 444.2 1804.A2 Current through 2015.

Code de Commerce

  • Text in French
  • Official versions available online in Légifrance
  • Unofficial English translation also available through Légifrance
  • Available in print from 1986 to present at KJV2194.3 .A52 Current through 2015.

Code de Procédure Civile (Nouveau)

  • Replaced the previous Code de Procedure Civile in 1976
  • Text in French
  • Official version is available through Légifrance
  • Unofficial, English translation also available at Légifrance
  • In print from 1986 to present at KJV3933.4 .A52 Current through 2015.

Code de Procédure Pénale

  • Text in French
  • Official version available online at Légifrance
  • Unofficial, English version located in Légifrance as well.
  • In print, available from 1975-76 and then 1985 to present at KJV8412.4 .A52 Current through 2015

Code Pénal

  • Text in French
  • Official version available online at Légifrance
  • Unofficial, English version located in Légifrance as well.
  • Like the Code de Procédure Civile, the Code Pénal was replaced by a new one in 1994. Thus, we have two print collections for it. One for the older code which runs from 1986 to 1992 and then the replacement code which runs from 1994 to present. These can be accessed at KJV7982 .A52 Current through 2015.

Other Statutes Online and in Print

Journal Officiel de la République Française. Lois et Décrets - official gazette of published laws and executive regulations; also includes proposed bills and parliamentary debates

  • Available online from Légifrance - 1990 to present
  • Microform in the Library - KJV17.F72 Micro - 1988 through 2003

TRANSLATIONS IN PRINT

  • French Law: Constitution and Selective LegislationBermann and Curran KJV4073.6 .F73 1981
    This looseleaf set contains continuing English translations of essential investment, trade and commerce laws between France and other countries. 
  • Introduction to French Law (2nd edition), Bermann and Picard, eds KJV237 .I58 2012
    A practical and concise book that covers the complexity of the French legal system in 17 chapters. Different authors offer their expertise on various fields to ensure that each subject is discussed in detail, both substantive and procedural.
  • The Making of Law: An Ethnography of the Conseil d'EtatLatour KJV4385 .L3713 2010
    This book gives the reader an inside look at how judges on the State counsel come to their decisions and what they do to remain objective while on the bench.
  • French Administrative Law and the Common-Law WorldSchwartz K3400 .S38 1954
    A comparative look at administrative law in the civil law jurisdiction of France versus common law jurisdictions like the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • French Law: A Comparative ApproachSteiner KJV284 .S74 2010
    This book utilizes a comparative method throughout to highlight the distinctions in French law when viewed alongside other jurisdictions. In addition to looking at the basic legal foundation of France, the book also focuses on French property, contract and tort laws.