HUISSIER de justice is usually translated as “bailiff”, but these officials have a bigger role than this suggests at first glance.
The huissier, whose formal dress includes a black robe and a white cravat, is a state official, appointed by the Justice Minister. There are 2,200 of their études (legal offices) across France.
Their tasks include:
- Delivering formal notification of decisions to those concerned: eg. delivering summons to appear in a tribunal de grande instance (high court), informing people of court judgments or giving a tenant notice to quit a property on behalf of their landlord.
- Carrying out court orders, such as freezing a debtor’s bank account, seizing goods, or paying creditors.
- Amicable resolution of debts, eg. by drawing up a reimbursement plan accepted by debtor and creditor.
- Making a legally enforceable attestation of a state of affairs, eg. the condition of a property on arrival of a new tenant or before renovation work,
observing nuisance being caused to a neighbour or making an inventory of possessions before a couple signs a pacs, showing what belongs to each.
- Filing the rules of competitions organised by media firms and, sometimes, helping to draw them up. A huissier can also draw winners, guaranteeing impartiality.
- Seizing counterfeit goods.
Huissiers are a regulated profession with set tariffs for their work and they are competent to act within the area served by a specific tribunal d'instance (local court).