The Justice of the Peace
The Justice of the Peace sits alone and constitutes a court of first instance. As his title suggests, his main duty in civil matters is to reconcile parties, as far as is possible, and to rule on disputes with a value no higher than a specified amount, currently set at € 4,600. In criminal matters, he presides over the Police Court. He is also responsible for the presidency of the judgment panel of the Employment Tribunal (Article 33 of Act no 446 of 16th May 1946), disputes regarding the election of employee representatives (Act 459 of 19th July 1947), and the sealing of documents (Article 853 and the subsequent articles in the Code of Civil Procedure).
In contrast to the Court of First Instance, which has general jurisdiction, the Justice of the Peace can only adjudicate on matters which are specifically assigned to him by law.
In civil matters
The three procedures which are most commonly employed before the Justice of the Peace are as follows: an order to pay, garnishment of salaries and wages, and the ordinary civil procedure.
I – The simplified procedure for an order to pay, governed by Act 821 of 23rd June 1967
This is an excellent recovery process for small civil and commercial claims.
The Justice of the Peace has the power to adjudicate for amounts up to € 4,600. In cases where the claim is contractual and the debtor is resident in the Principality of Monaco, the Justice of the Peace’s ruling is based solely on the documents and he does not hear the parties involved. The claimant therefore benefits from a simplified procedure as he is only required to submit, either directly or through the intermediary of a representative of his choosing, a request for an order to pay accompanied by documents supporting his claim, and to pay a deposit, the value of which depends on the disputed amount. Should the request be accepted, the rights of the defendant, to whom the order is served by registered letter, or failing that by a bailiff’s writ are also protected as he has the option to lodge an appeal within fifteen days from the date of the notice, by written statement or by registered letter, and by paying a fixed sum, which is determined by the judge, as an advance. In the case of an appeal being lodged, the parties are summonsed to attend a public hearing before the Justice of the Peace, who then decides on the merits after due hearing of the parties if reconciliation between the parties does not appear to be possible.
In the case of appeals, the rules for appearing before the Justice of the Peace are the same as those in force under the ordinary procedure. Judgments on appeals will be delivered either in first or last instance, depending on the amount disputed.
In the absence of an appeal, the judgment is endorsed with an enforcement order by the court registrar. It thus has the same force as a judgment given after due hearing of the parties and cannot be appealed or objected to.
If the request is rejected, the judge’s decision, which he does not have to justify, is not subject to any appeal. Although the avenue of common law is open to the claimant.
II – The ordinary procedure
The Justice of the Peace has the power to adjudicate on personal actions and possessory actions in last instance if the value of the dispute does not exceed € 1,800 and in first instance for amounts up to € 4,600. Objection is possible. In cases where the judgment is delivered in first instance, it can be appealed against before the Court of First Instance. However, the Justice of the Peace, which is a specific jurisdiction, is not competent to adjudicate on disputes regarding bankruptcies, the costs and fees of the avocat-défenseur, lawyers, public notaries, registrars and bailiffs, and disputes concerning the domain of the Prince, as these matters come under the jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance.
Its territorial jurisdiction is determined by Article 1 and the subsequent articles in the Code of Civil Procedure.
The procedure must begin with an attempt at reconciliation (Article 24 of the Code of Civil Procedure), subject to the exceptions provided for in Article 25 of the aforementioned code. Therefore, a summons cannot, under penalty of nullity, be delivered before this judge. The plaintiff must first request that the defendant is called to attend a reconciliation meeting. The parties are summonsed by the court registrar to an attempt at reconciliation in private. In principle, they must attend in person. They may be represented by a lawyer, an avocat-défenseur, parent or a relative by affinity only if they are resident outside of the Principality or in the case of a justifiable impediment. In the case of conciliation, an official report stating the terms of the agreement will be drawn up.
In the case of non-conciliation or non-appearance by the defendant, the parties are sent to appear before the Justice of the Peace again, either on the date of the hearing indicated in the initial reconciliation meeting, or by bailiff’s writ depending on whether or not the request exceeds the sum of € 1,800. At the public hearing, where the parties may appear either in person or be represented by a parent, friend, lawyer or avocat-défenseur, the dispute is judged on the merits after each party has had the opportunity to present their arguments.
III – Garnishments of salaries, wages and arrears
In contrast to the two procedures detailed above, this procedure concerns enforcement proceedings governed by the provisions of Act 741 of 25 March 1963.
Any person who wishes to recover a debt from a debtor employed in the Principality of Monaco, or who receives a pension or attachable arrears from an organisation located in the Principality, as specified in Articles 502 and 503 of the Code of Civil Procedure, can request recovery of the debt by notification to the court registrar or by post.
The claimant and the defendant are then summonsed by the court registrar to an attempt at reconciliation. In the case of reconciliation, an official report is drawn up immediately. In the case of non-conciliation, the Justice of the Peace authorises garnishment if the creditor has security, or in the absence of a serious challenge to the existence or amount of the debt (Article 5, paragraph 3 of Act 741), either on the unseizable part of the salary for the recovery of the current instalments of maintenance claims, or on the seizable part for other debts. The amount of the seizable part is set each year by Sovereign Ordinance, depending on the salary amount and the number of dependents. The Justice of the Peace cannot change the amount to be deducted by the employer or the paying body which assumes responsibility in the case of non-compliance with its legal obligations.
The current instalments of child support are paid directly by the caisse des dépôts and deposits to the creditor, while the funds collected on the seizable portion are the subject of allocations made by the Justice of the Peace.
In the case of appeal by the debtor, attaching creditor or garnishee, the Justice of the Peace is provided with a procedure for validity, nullity or discharge. He can even order it ex officio.
In criminal matters
The Justice of the Peace presides over the Police Court and can adjudicate on contraventions, as specified in Article 22 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The rules of procedure to be followed are laid down in Article 424 and the subsequent articles in the Code of Criminal Procedure.
In this capacity he adjudicates on criminal offences which are designated as contraventions and are punishable by a maximum imprisonment of five days and/or a maximum fine of € 600. The Police Court is composed of the Justice of the Peace and a Police Superintendent appointed by the Public Prosecutor to represent the Public Prosecution Department. The judgments delivered by the Police Court may be subject to objection or appeal before the Court of First Instance, which rules on correctional matters.
The matter is brought before the Court either by referral or by a summons issued to the accused, who may be liable for damages, either by the Public Prosecution Department or by the plaintiff claiming for damages. Witnesses summonsed in the same way may also be heard. This takes place in a public hearing and the parties may appear in person or be represented by an avocat-défenseur or by a lawyer.
In cases where a prison sentence is not envisaged, the proceedings carried out at the request of the Public Prosecution Department may be halted, except in the case of a repeat offence, by payment of half the amount of the highest fine incurred.
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