INFORMATION COVID-19 – FAQ
Last updated on 20 March 2020
1° Is our office open? Does it continue to function despite the lockdown?
We continue our activity as usual, remotely. Our lawyers can still be reached by email and by telephone, including via our switchboard.
Our videoconferencing system allows us to hold meetings with our clients and to share all documents (Word, Excel etc.) in real time.
In accordance with the lockdown measures put in place by the government, our premises are closed. However, mail is regularly collected.
Please also note that we can, if necessary, travel to the office or to any judicial institution, subject to the sanitary conditions imposed.
2° Is the activity of the courts maintained? What is the impact on ongoing proceedings?
All the courts have been closed since Monday 16 March 2020 in accordance with the government’s announcements.
Each court has set up its own organization. In general and in the immediate future, for most of the courts:
- No telephone or physical reception is provided;
- All scheduled hearings – including summary proceedings – are cancelled or postponed, with exceptions for “essential” litigation (see below);
- Scheduled deliberations should be extended;
- Summonses and motions are no longer processed by the Courts’ Clercks, except in the case of essential litigation (see below);
- Court Computer Messaging Systems (“CCMS”) remain in operation but messages addressed to the Courts’ Clercks are not processed.
Only certain so-called “essential” disputes are maintained, with the establishment of duty hours schedules.
- Absolute civil and commercial emergencies, summary proceedings and requests (authorization to summon in summary proceedings on very short notice);
- Criminal litigation relating to pre-trial detention and judicial review, immediate appearances, urgent criminal litigation (in particular the enforcement of sentences). The Public Prosecutor’s Office is on duty at all times;
- Bankruptcy proceedings and proceedings to prevent companies’ difficulties: some commercial court offices are maintained, and it is also possible to bring cases before certain courts in exceptional cases. The Government has issued instructions to prevent the courts from opening new bankruptcy proceedings. Declarations of payments’ cessation can be made in a dematerialized manner.
- Urgent family cases: protection orders, child abduction proceedings, funeral disputes, educational assistance;
- Civil liberties and civil detention judge litigation (hospitalization under constraint, detention of foreigners);
- Litigation falling within the jurisdiction of the Enforcement Judge is not considered as part of “essential” litigation.
According to the courts and bar associations, special measures are likely to be put in place in the next few days to allow, in particular, the holding of dematerialized procedural hearings in civil and commercial matters. A bill is also under discussion that includes certain provisions in this regard.
As far as the Paris courts are concerned:
Judicial Court of Paris:
- Hearings (summary proceedings, collegiate hearings, pretrial hearings, incidents, etc.) have been canceled;
- Rendering of decision (substantive, summary) extended to a later date;
- Counterfeit seizures are not authorized;
- Only absolute civil emergencies are treated – office hours from 10am to 1pm in room 4.22.
- CCMS messages are not processed.
Enforcement Judge (“Juge de l’exécution”) at the Judicial Court of Paris:
Possibility of scheduling hearing dates (hearings which will however be held at the end of the crisis period), with a view to issuing summonses for the following cases only:
- challenge of a seizure award;
- extension of orders to pay (commandements de payer) which are equivalent to a seizure of real estate property (subject to delays).
Paris Court of Appeal:
- All pleadings set until April 30, 2020 are postponed after September 28, 2020;
- Only absolute emergencies are treated every Thursday at 9:30 am, Room 1-5.
Commercial Court of Paris:
- Hearings cancelled until April 17, 2020 (inclusive);
- Only absolute emergencies are treated (by appointment).
3° Is it possible to have summonses issued, to have a bailiff serve documents or to have bailiff’s reports drawn up? Are bailiffs’ offices open?
The Paris Chamber of Judicial Officers is closed from the evening of 17 March until 1 April 2020 inclusive.
Some bailiff’s offices accept to deliver urgent documents and to proceed to statements of facts that can be made on the Internet.
The situation is likely to evolve in the next few days.
4° Do the time limits (statute of limitation, foreclosure, forfeiture, etc.) continue to run?
A bill is currently under discussion which includes measures to suspend or even interrupt the statutes of limitation, which are governing the legal regime of nullity, lapse, foreclosure, unenforceability, forfeiture of a right, etc., with the exception of measures involving deprivation of liberty and sanctions.
The provisions should enter into force retroactively as of 12 March 2020. The precise modalities of application will depend on the final text adopted and the implementing legislation taken by the Government where appropriate.
5° Is it possible to send formal notices?
It is still possible to send letters of formal notice, either by post or by email. Official correspondence between lawyers is also still possible.
The effect of formal notices may however be impacted by any legal provisions that may be adopted regarding the suspension or interruption of statute of limitation (see above: Do statute of limitation (prescription, foreclosure, forfeiture etc.) continue to run?)
6° Is it possible to send registered letters?
The Post Office recommends the use of simple or tracked letters, so that they can be posted from street letterboxes.
If it is necessary to send a registered letter:
- Some post offices remain open. To find an open post office: https://www.laposte.fr/particulier/outils/trouver-un-bureau-de-poste
- There are alternatives to postage-paid registered letters at the post office (electronic registered letter, pre-stamped letters: https://aide.laposte.fr/categorie/covid-19/ (“Can I drop off my mail or parcel at a post office?”). See also: https://www.ar24.fr/ (online service for sending electronic registered letters, eIDAS qualification).
Our lawyers continue to send registered letters in the cases they handle when necessary.
7° Company law deadlines, holding of general meetings
A bill is currently under discussion to simplify and adapt the conditions under which the meetings and assemblies of governing bodies of legal persons governed by private law meet and deliberate.
The bill also provides for adaptations with regard to the preparation, ordering, auditing, review, approval and publication of accounts and other documents that private law legal persons are required to file or publish.
8° Travel: what are the instructions to be complied with and the certificates provided for by the Ministry of the Interior?
The Ministry of the Interior has, by decree n° 2020-260 dated 16 March 2020 regulating travel as part of the fight against the spread of the Covid-19 virus, prohibited travel outside the home except in precisely defined cases:
- journeys between the home and the place(s) where the professional activity is carried out and professional journeys that cannot be postponed;
- travel to make purchases of supplies necessary for the professional activity and purchases of basic necessities in establishments whose activities remain authorized by order of the Minister of Health issued on the basis of the provisions of article L. 3131-1 of the Public Health Code;
- travel for health reasons;
- travel for imperative family reasons, for the assistance of vulnerable persons or for childcare;
- short journeys, close to the home, related to the individual physical activity of persons, excluding any collective sports practice, and to the needs of pets.
Any person wishing to benefit from these exceptions must carry one of the following two certificates, depending on the reason for the journey:
- a certificate of exceptional travel, which can be downloaded via this link: https://www.interieur.gouv.fr/fr/content/download/121684/977026/file/attestation_de_deplacement_derogatoire.pdf;
- a proof of business travel, which can be downloaded via this link: https://www.interieur.gouv.fr/fr/content/download/121685/977031/file/justificatif_de_deplacement_professionnel.pdf.
Only certificates that are printed or handwritten on plain paper are permitted. The certificates must be repeated for each outing. Certificates in dematerialized form (i.e. on mobile phones) are not valid, in accordance with the instructions given by the Minister of the Interior on 18 March 2020.
Violations of this system are punishable by a 4th class fine, i.e. by a fine equal to a lump sum of 135 euros or 375 euros for an increased fine.
*The information published above is subject to change and may be supplemented in accordance with announcements and decisions of the authorities subsequent to the last update.