Affidavits in French Judicial Proceedings

Understanding the limited use of French affidavits in French Judicial Proceedings

In lieu of an affidavit, in French civil proceedings, a declaration called an “attestation sur honneur” will be used.  The preparation of and probative value of the French attestation are quite different. The principal differences are the following:

  • The attestation is drafted by the deponent and not an attorney. In fact, an attorney who does not respect this rule can be subject to both penal sanctions and bar counsel disciplinary proceedings.
  • The attestation should be hand written and not typed.
  • The maker of the attestation is generally not be a party to the proceeding or a person under the control of a party or a member of the family.
  • Since there is practically no oral testimony in French civil proceedings, the maker of the attestation will normally not be subjected to cross examination. Accordingly, attestations by a person with a presumed bias tend to ignored by the judge. On the other hand, an attestation by a clearly neutral third party may be given considerable weight by the judge.
  • The attestation is signed without the need to have it notarized. The signature of the deponent is collaborated by producing with the attestation a photocopy of a driver’s license, a passport or other official document bearing the signature of the person.

Naturally, the attestation may be written in a language other than French provided that a translation is provided to opposing counsel and the court.

While it is not possible for French legal counsel to draft the attestation, such counsel can provide his client with a bilingual form to be completed thereby facilitating the preparation of the attestation.

The most relevant provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure relating to the preparation of attestations are set forth below.

Article 199

Lorsque la preuve testimoniale est admissible, le juge peut recevoir des tiers les déclarations de nature à l’éclairer sur les faits litigieux dont ils ont personnellement connaissance. Ces déclarations sont faites par attestations ou recueillies par voie d’enquête selon qu’elles sont écrites ou orales.

Article 199

Where testimonial evidence is admissible, the judge will receive from third parties statements that will clarify the disputed facts about which they have personal knowledge. These statements will be made in writing or brought by means of an inquiry, depending on whether they are written or oral.

Article 200

Les attestations sont produites par les parties ou à la demande du juge.

Le juge communique aux parties celles qui lui sont directement adressées.

Article 200

Affidavits are brought by the parties or upon the request of the judge.

The judge will send to the parties those (affidavits) transmitted directly to him.

Article 201

Les attestations doivent être établies par des personnes qui remplissent les conditions requises pour être entendues comme témoins.

Article 201

The affidavits must be made by persons who meet the requirements to be heard as witnesses.

Article 202

L’attestation contient la relation des faits auxquels son auteur a assisté ou qu’il a personnellement constatés.

Elle mentionne les nom, prénoms, date et lieu de naissance, demeure et profession de son auteur ainsi que, s’il y a lieu, son lien de parenté ou d’alliance avec les parties, de subordination à leur égard, de collaboration ou de communauté d’intérêts avec elles.

Elle indique en outre qu’elle est établie en vue de sa production en justice et que son auteur a connaissance qu’une fausse attestation de sa part l’expose à des sanctions pénales.

L’attestation est écrite, datée et signée de la main de son auteur. Celui-ci doit lui annexer, en original ou en photocopie, tout document officiel justifiant de son identité et comportant sa signature.

Article 202

The affidavit must contain an account of facts which the affiant has witnessed or which he has personally knowledge.

It must state the surname, the first name, the date and place of birth, the domicile and the occupation of the affiant as well as, if necessary, his family relationship or affinity with the parties, his relation of subordination towards them, his relation of collaboration or his common interests with them.

Further, it must state that it is made to be produced in a court of law and that the affiant is aware that he shall face penalties for any false statement on his behalf.

The affidavit must be written, dated and signed by the affiant in his own hand. He must attach to the affidavit the original or a photocopy of any official document proving his identity and showing his signature.

Article 203

Le juge peut toujours procéder par voie d’enquête à l’audition de l’auteur d’une attestation.

Article 203

The judge may, while conducting an inquiry, hear the affiant.