Several organizations, unions and associations have asked the French Council of State to suspend several rules for adapting the functioning of administrative and judicial courts (excluding criminal) during the state of health emergency. In particular, they contested the possibility of using videoconferencing during hearings, of conducting proceedings without an hearing or of rejecting some applications for summary proceedings without a contradictory procedure. The interim relief judge dismissed these applications. He recalled that the Government had been empowered, by the emergency law passed by the French Parliament on 23 March, to adapt the operating rules of the administrative and judicial courts in order to limit the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic.
With regard to the possibility of using audio-visual means of telecommunication during hearings, the Council of State noted that this was intended to respect the need for social distancing and that the judge must ensure the smooth running of exchanges between the parties by ensuring that the rights of the defense were respected and that the proceedings were contradictory in nature.
The judge went on to observe that written proceedings without an hearing could be refused by the parties in the judicial courts, within a period of 15 days, except in the case of an urgent or expedited procedure. Even if it is a written procedure, the judge recalled that the contradictory nature of the proceedings is guaranteed. The judge further noted that, as far as the administrative courts are concerned, judgements without an hearing will, in practice, be possible only in a limited number of cases.
The applicants also contested the possibility offered to judicial judges to dismiss applications for interim measures without a contradictory procedure. The Council of State specified that this could only concern applications that were clearly inadmissible or did not meet the conditions for summary proceedings. Reasons must also be given for such rejections and the applicant may appeal against them in the usual manner.
Case reported by Inès Giauffret, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (UVSQ)