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France’s Judicial Revolution

PARIS – A new and important acronym has entered the French political lexicon: QPC, which stands for the rather austere-sounding “Priority preliminary ruling on the question of constitutionality.” Under QPC, which was part of the constitutional reforms that France implemented in July 2008, any citizen involved in legal proceedings can now contest the constitutionality of a legislative provision.

This is a far-reaching innovation. France has long been characterized by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s philosophy, which placed the law – the expression of the General Will – at the absolute top of the hierarchy of judicial norms. As a result, a veritable allergy to assessing the constitutionality of any law has long held sway.