Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Cassation, a French law word signifying the reversal of a judicial sentence. It is derived from cassare, which, in the barbarous Latin of the lower ages, was synonymous with irritum reddere, to annul. The French Tribunal de Cassation received its full organisation under Napoleon, and has ever since continued under the title of Cour de Cassation. It is the highest court in France and receives appeals from all other courts. It consists of a president, 3 vice-presidents, and 49 ordinary judges or counsellors, a procureur-general or public prosecutor, 6 substitutes (known as advocates general), and several inferior officers. The judges are appointed by the President of the Republic, and their appointments are irrevocable. The court is divided into 3 sections: 1, The Section des Requites, which decides whether the petitions or appeals are to be received; 2, the Section de Cassation Civile, which deals with civil cases; 3, the Section ds Cassation Criminelle, which deals with criminal cases. These several sections do not decide upon the main question, but only on the competency of the other courts, and the legality of the forms and principles of law by which the cases have been already tried. If the law is found to have been violated, the sentence of the inferior court is annulled, and the case sent to be tried by another court. If this second court decides the case in the same manner as the first, and a petition against the decision is again laid before the Court of Cassation, then the three sections unite in order to examine the case afresh, and if they find reason to pass a second reversal, the case is sent to be tried before another court. Should this third court decide in the same way as the other courts, and a petition against the decision be again presented to the Court of Cassation, the court requests a final explanation of the law on the point at issue from the legislature. The court also possesses (when presided over by the Minister of Justice) the right of discipline and censure over all judges for grave offences not specially provided for by the law.

The institution of the Court of Cassation has proved highly beneficial to France; it has acted as a watchful guardian of the laws; it has afforded protection to its citizens against arbitrary acts, and the misjudgments or misconstructions of the other courts. Placed by the nature of its office out of the immediate influence of political partisanship, it has maintained its high character for strict impartiality throughout all the changes of government and administration. Many of the most distinguished jurists of France have been among its members.