Any act by an administrative authority which constitutes a decision liable to adversely affect to a citizen may be the appealed.
Various possible remedies are available to people affected by a decision by a State body, a commune or a public institution.
Some of the explanations below, which are based on hypothetical scenarios, are of limited use and only partially represent or simplify reality. In all cases, it is strongly recommended that you consult a professional advisor before drawing conclusions about your actual legal situation.
Before bringing an action before the administrative courts, persons who disagree with an administrative decision that adversely affect them always have the option of filing an internal appeal (or a non-contentious appeal) with the authority to have it modify its initial position with regard to the applicant.
Non-contentious appeals are filed with the person who took the contested administrative decision or their hierarchical superior. It need not be in any specific format and need not be drafted by a lawyer.
The appeal itself is not subject to any time limit: it can be filed at any time. However, to ensure that the option of bringing an action before the Administrative Tribunal is not lost if a non-contentious appeal is not successful, the non-contentious appeal should be filed before the expiry of the time limit for appeals to the Administrative Tribunal (3 months from the date of notification of the decision, or from the day on which the applicant became aware of the decision).
In fact, within that period, a non-contentious appeal is unique in that it suspends the time limit for filing an appeal with the Administrative Tribunal and sets a new time-limit which starts when notice is given of the new decision.
If no response is made to a non-contentious appeal, the time limit for a legal appeal is not, however, indefinitely suspended. If more than three months have elapsed since the filing of the non-contentious appeal without a new decision, the time limit for bringing a legal appeal begins at the end of the three-month period.
A civil servant was denied promotion by ministerial decision. The civil servant then sends a registered letter to the relevant minister, requesting that the latter reconsider their position.
As a general rule, appeals to the Administrative Tribunal must be filed within 3 months of the day on which notice was given of the decision to the applicant, or on the day on which the applicant became aware of the decision.
Legal appeals must be made in writing.
- A person applies for a building permit, but the permit is refused by the mayor. Since the notice of refusal is, in principle, sent to the applicant by registered letter, the time limit for taking action starts from the day of notification by letter.
- A building permit is granted. However, the neighbours were not necessarily notified of this decision by the mayor. For them, therefore, the time limit for bringing legal proceedings begins on the day the building permit is posted on the building site.
Although the ability to challenge an administrative decision is not limited to the direct addressee of the measure, not just any third party may challenge an administrative decision: a third party must be personally affected by the administrative act.
Except in the case of direct contributions, any application before the Administrative Tribunal must be signed by a court lawyer.
The purpose of appeals before the administrative courts is:
- to seek the annulment of the contested decision: the judge merely declares the act illegal and it is the administration's responsibility to decree a new act, drawing lessons from the judicial decision issued;
- in cases where the law expressly provides for it (such as disputes involving foreigners or the civil service), to seek the reversal of the administrative act: reversal goes further than annulment in that administrative judges do not, as the case may be, merely annul the contested decision but replace them with their own decision by acting in the stead of the authority and redressing the initial defects of the act.
By law, the procedure before the administrative courts is a written procedure which operates within very strict time limits.
As a result, at the first instance, the investigation of the case lasts 7 months. Then the Tribunal hands down its judgement. In appeal proceedings before the Administrative Court, the court generally hands down its judgement within 5 months of the judgement of the lower court.
In the case of decisions taken by the social security institutions, there are specific internal appeal procedures for each branch of the social security system—which may be classified as amicable remedies—prior to any legal proceedings phase.