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Public law: definition, branches and litigation relating to administrative law

Law, a vast and complex field, is divided into several categories, among which public law stands out. This field has a clearly defined purpose, encompassing several essential facets. Exploring the nuances of this specific area of law is essential to a thorough understanding of its implications. When it comes to public law disputes and litigation, the services of a specialist lawyer such as Cabinet Sion Avocat are often indispensable... but let's take a closer look at what public law is all about.

What is public law?

Public law: definition

Generally speaking, the law - the body of rules established by public authorities to ensure the smooth running of society - falls into two distinct categories. On the one hand, we have private law, and on the other, public law. In France, a natural opposition emerges between these two branches of law, stemming from the fact that public law prioritizes the general interest over the individual interest defended by private law.

It should be remembered that relations between private individuals are primarily governed by the laws of private law. This includes areas such as civil law, the law of obligations, inheritance law and tax law. However, in the Anglo-Saxon legal system, no specific distinction is made between private and public law. In France, on the other hand, public law is defined as the branch of law concerned with the organization and operation of the state and its institutions. It also examines relations between the public service, public corporations and companies.


Branches of public law

The field of public law encompasses various branches, including in particular :

  • Administrative law
  • Constitutional law
  • Criminal law
  • Public finance law
  • Public international law.

Let's take a closer look at each of these areas.


Administrative law

Administrative law, one of the most important branches of public law, plays a crucial role in framing decisions taken by the public service. It establishes the rules governing various administrative contracts, including :

  • Public procurement contracts
  • Contracts for the occupation of public property
  • Public service delegation agreements
  • Public loan contracts
  • Competitive tenders
  • Public-private partnerships

In addition to these categories are "in-house" contracts, which, although falling within the definition of a public contract, are excluded in accordance with Article 3 of the Public Procurement Code.

Administrative law is the legal framework governing relations between a public entity and its co-contractor, whether a private legal entity or an individual. It sets out the organization, activities and powers of public services and administrative authorities. This field of law also covers the liability of public bodies and the disputes that may arise from their interactions. It encompasses several sub-branches, such as civil service law, social security law, local authority law, town planning law, environmental law and health law.

It's worth pointing out that health law and social security law are mixed laws, combining the laws of public and private law. As you will have understood, this section of public law can be quite complex, so don't hesitate to seek the advice of an administrative law attorney.


Constitutional law

Constitutional law, centered on the supreme law, the constitution (hence its name), has as its principal mission to regulate the exercise of public power. It establishes the laws governing citizens' participation in this exercise, covering a wide range of areas. In short, its areas of intervention include:

Controlling and overseeing the fundamental rights of every individual, including freedom of movement, the right to life, freedom of expression and others,
Defining how laws and treaties are adopted at national level, and specifying the scope of application of legal rules.

Constitutional law, however, is primarily concerned with the law of political institutions. In other words, it establishes the institutions of the State, including the government, parliament and the judiciary. It also specifies their respective functions, and how their members are appointed.


Criminal law

This is the body of law that defines, regulates and punishes offenses, in close connection with the criminal procedure that organizes the process of punishing antisocial behavior. Criminal law is divided into two distinct categories: general criminal law, which lays down the laws generally applicable to offences, and special criminal law, which lays down the laws specifically governing each type of offence.

Considered as a mixed law, criminal law is both linked to public law, insofar as the nation is responsible for punishing criminal behavior to guarantee the general interest, and to private law, by protecting the interests of citizens, notably through the principle of legality of offenses and penalties.


Public finance law

Public finance law is the body of laws governing the finances of the State, local authorities and public services. Basically, it is divided into two main branches: tax law and budget law.

Tax law, which is of a mixed nature, combines the laws of public and private law. It establishes the legal principles applicable to taxes, social security contributions, duties and levies. This branch encompasses various sub-fields such as general tax law, eco-taxation, international taxation and criminal tax law.

As for budgetary law, it defines the mechanisms involved in public spending and revenue. It encompasses all the laws governing the adoption and implementation of budgets by legal entities governed by public law.

It is important to note that public finance law is associated with public economic law, a branch of public business law. If you have any questions on this subject, don't hesitate to consult a tax lawyer!


Public international law

This mainly defines the laws that apply to relations between a state and international organizations. This branch of law comprises two main categories: European Union law, also known as European law, and customary law. The second category includes the law of treaties, international humanitarian law, statelessness, the law of state representation, and the law of the sea in peacetime. Although real estate law is in principle a branch of public law, it is generally classified as mixed law. For the latter, you can call on the services of a real estate attorney.


Public law sub-disciplines focusing on private players

Public law has frequently been criticized for neglecting the private individual, who lies at the very heart of the legislation. However, since the Blanco ruling, significant changes have taken place, notably with the strengthening of fundamental rights and freedoms. As public law has progressively evolved, individuals are now guaranteed rights vis-à-vis the State and the public service. Among the branches of public law governing relations between public and private bodies, we might mention the following:

  • Sports law
  • Public procurement law
  • Social action
  • Foreigners' law
  • Electoral law

The law on foreigners, for example, deals with the status of foreigners on the territory of a state, as well as legislation on naturalization, entry and exit. As far as sports law is concerned, it is moving ever closer to a public law regime due to the increasing involvement of the State. At present, all sporting activities are supervised by the public service, in this case national sports federations such as the French Football Federation (FFF). However, sports legislation retains a more or less hybrid status, focusing primarily on the relationships between different private entities within the sporting field, notably between players and sports associations.

Public procurement law governs relations between the public service and suppliers of services and goods, generally private entities. As a branch of public law, it establishes the legal framework that applies to economic interactions between a private person and a legal entity governed by public law. As far as electoral law is concerned, it governs relations between the state and private entities, whether candidates or voters.


Why consult a public law attorney?

Are you wondering why you should hire a public law attorney?
Relations with the administration or the State can sometimes give rise to disputes. For example, following a competitive examination organized by the state, reservations may be expressed about the reliability of the results. If you work for a public service, your rights may be infringed by an administrative authority. In such situations, the assistance of a lawyer specialized in public law may be indispensable. This professional will be responsible for defending your interests before the competent jurisdiction, be it the constitutional court or a special council. A lawyer's expertise in public law can also be crucial when it comes to obtaining citizenship or a residence permit, as well as in handling disputes arising from contracts concluded with a government department.

Faced with the power of public authorities, particularly the State and its departments, it can be difficult to win a legal battle. To increase your chances, it is essential to be accompanied by a lawyer experienced in constitutional law, administrative law or tax law. In this respect, Cabinet Sion Avocat is the ideal partner to provide you with the necessary assistance. Whether you're the plaintiff or the defendant, don't hesitate to contact us. Our team is fully conversant with legislation, rules, legal principles, standards and rights. We favor amicable solutions, but are also ready to represent you before the constitutional court, the criminal court judge, or your department's administrative board.

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