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Which courts hear which types of civil disputes?
The civil courts are in charge of adjudicating civil disputes. They are divided into chambers depending on the nature of the dispute; the division is as follows:
1- The Commercial Chamber is competent in determining / adjudicating commercial and financial disputes between corporate entities;
2- The Financial Chamber is competent in determining / adjudicating financial disputes between individuals;
3- The Personal Statute Chamber is in charge of determining / adjudicating matters relating to nationality, inheritance, matrimonial issues, etc.
In addition to the above, there are special chambers which deal with (a) Lease issues; (b) Real Estate issues; and (c) Bankruptcy matters. There is also a “one judge court” for summary proceedings, and an Enforcement Bureau which is competent in ruling over enforcement proceedings.
Are courts independent from other branches of power?
The judicial system in Lebanon which operates exclusively through various courts at all degrees and jurisdictions is independent from the two other branches of power (i.e. the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch) as enshrined in the Lebanese Constitution. Judges of all levels of courts are required to be independent and they pronounce judgements and decisions in the name of the Lebanese people.
Is there a distinction between federal and state courts?
There are no federal courts in Lebanon, since Lebanon is a unitary state.
What is the civil court hierarchy?
The civil courts are divided into:
How are judges generally appointed or elected?
The candidate must pass an entry exam followed by a three years training at the Institute for Judiciary studies. Upon graduation, the judges are appointed to offices within judiciary corps by the High Council of Magistrates.
Are courts bound by the decisions of other courts?
With respect to the three jurisdiction court hierarchy, each court can reverse the decision of the lower court.
Does your jurisdiction use juries?
The French-influenced Lebanese jurisdiction does not use the jury system per se. However, labour disputes, for instance, require the presence of a judge accompanied with a representative of the employees and a representative of the employers and a government commissioner representing the Ministry of labour.
According to Article 5 of the Law Organizing the Legal Profession (amended by Law No.42, issued on 19/2/1991), a lawyer must be a Lebanese national for at least 10 years, enjoying civil capacity, having a resume that inspires trust and never convicted on the penal and disciplinary levels or dismissed from a public service or a previous profession for a reason that tampers with honour and dignity. He must also hold the Lebanese Baccalaureate. Upon graduation from an accredited Faculty of Law, the candidate should sit and pass the bar exam. Three years of internship in a law firm is required thereafter in order to allow the candidate to sit for a further and final qualifying bar exam. Once the candidate passes this ultimate bar exam, he/she is admitted as a “Lawyer at the Bar”.
Is there a fused or a split bar (eg, barristers, solicitors)?
The legal profession in Lebanon is fused, whereby no dichotomy exists between solicitors and barristers.
Are there specific rights of audience for separate courts?
A Lebanese lawyer should hold a power of attorney from his/her client in order to appear on its behalf before courts of law, i.e. the courts of first instance, the courts of appeal and the courts of cassation. However, appointing a lawyer is not a must before the Council of Arbitral Labour and the concerned individual can attend by himself. On the other hand, a trainee lawyer is not entitled to attend audiences before the courts of appeal and cassation.
May foreign lawyers practise in your jurisdiction?
In principle, lawyers practicing in Lebanon should be Lebanese nationals, or naturalized individuals for at least ten years. However, pursuant to article 115 of the law of organisation of the legal profession in Lebanon, a foreign lawyer may, upon a special permit granted by the President of the Bar, plead a specific case before the Lebanese courts, provided there is a reciprocity condition concerning the Bar the foreign lawyer is member of, and provided such permission is issued on a case by case basis.
What is the general attitude towards litigation?
The general attitude is the slow and ultimately costly process.
What is the prevailing government policy towards litigation?
As mentioned above, there is a split between the government and the judicial authority. However, the Ministry of Justice is trying to speed the judicial process by requesting Judges to render their decisions in a speedy, not hasty, manner.
Briefly, what procedural or structural reforms to civil litigation are in progress?
A committee for the renewal of laws constituted by Lebanese lawyers is the most important committee to undertake reforms regarding the civil litigation.
How heavy is the caseload? Would you describe your jurisdiction as relatively litigious?
The caseload is very heavy and the Lebanese jurisdiction is extremely litigious.
Are there typical "professional" or activist plaintiffs?
There are not really typical "professional" or activist plaintiffs.
As mentioned above, the nature of the dispute determines the competent Chamber of the civil court.
According to article 86 CCP the One Judge court hears the following:
All the foregoing is subject to compliance with the competence of the real estate judge.
The domicile of the defendant (art 97 CCP), the place where a contract has been signed (art 100 CCP), the location of a plot (art 98 CCP), the location of a companys head office (art 101 CCP), etc. determine the territorial jurisdiction.
May parties agree upon a specific forum?
Parties may agree in a contract upon a specific forum, such as Beirut courts; however, the Parties cannot elude the competence of the respective chambers as described under Answer 11.
Moreover, the Parties may not elude the obligatory territorial competence stated in articles 108-112 CCP:
What are the considerations if one of the parties is foreign?
The competence of the Lebanese courts toward a foreign party is conditioned by certain rules stipulated mainly in article 78 et seq. of the CCP. In particular, Lebanese courts hear lawsuits against Lebanese or foreigners who do not have a residence or registered address in Lebanon or who do not have elected domicile, in the following cases:
The Lebanese jurisdiction does not commonly attract disputes that have a nexus with other jurisdictions because of the slow judicial process. However, because of the international nature of certain Lebanese businesses, it is not uncommon for foreign or local parties to seek interim relief and/or or initiate actions in Lebanon in support of wider actions conducted abroad.
This situation is governed by article 56 CCP, under the heading Procedural Pleas. Said article provides:
A court before which a plea of a pending claim before another court is filed shall cease its jurisdiction over the case and refer same to the other court, except where the court before which the case was subsequently filed has rendered a final decision pertaining to one aspect of the dispute [ ]
If both courts were of different hierarchy, a plea of a pending claim before the superior court may not be filed [ ]
In all cases, where a plea of a pending claim before a Chamber is filed before a sole judge, the sole judge shall refer the dispute to the Chamber.
If court proceedings are initiated despite an arbitration agreement, the Lebanese court will declare itself incompetent if the objection on jurisdiction is made prior to the parties engaging in the merits phase. The Lebanese arbitration law does not provide time limits for making jurisdictional objections. Should a party wish to object to the competence of the court seized with the dispute, such objection should be made by reference to article 53 CCP prior to engaging in any discussion on the merits of the case. If both parties fully participate in court proceedings despite there being an arbitration agreement in their contract, this would be considered a waiver of their right to arbitrate.
Article 785 CCP expressly recognises the principle of kompetenz-kompetenz. Interim, partial or final arbitral award on jurisdiction are enforceable in Lebanon. As regard the judicial review of partial or interim awards on jurisdiction, this is generally undertaken by the court alongside with the review of the final award in a given matter so as not unduly delay the arbitration proceedings.
Anti-suit injunctions are available in Lebanon. However, the recognition and implementation in Lebanon of foreign anti-suit injunctions is a different matter.
Members of the Parliament enjoy parliamentary immunity from being sued for criminal matters. Diplomatic Missions enjoy an absolute immunity.
As for a foreign states immunity, a theoretical distinction should be made between the immunity of jurisdiction and the immunity of execution. A foreign state may be sued but the judgment cannot be executed in Lebanon.
Concerning lawyers, a special procedure is required in order to sue them by way of a permit granted by the President of the Bar.
The proceedings commence by filing a lawsuit at the clerk of the relevant Courts office. The defendant and the plaintiff shall then respectively submit their briefs within the time limit stipulated by the law (arts 449- 452 and 453 CCP) before the clerks office (deadline for exchanging briefs). After the expiration of the said deadline, the judge shall appoint the date of the hearing. However, pursuant to article 459 CCP, in matters not exceeding LBP 800.000 and for provisional measures, the judge can, immediately after filing the lawsuit, appoint the date of the hearing.
The judge shall ensure the proper functioning of the trial procedures and is entitled to grant extensions of time and take all measures he deems necessary (art 364 CCP).
The Court shall, at any time of the trial proceedings, verify the legal capacity of the parties to stand trial (and their standing). The Court shall as well declare itself incompetent if the rules of jurisdiction are not respected.
The Plaintiff should have the required locus standi to file a claim (art 9 CCP). The Statement of Claim should include the following (art 443 CCP):
The Defendant should submit its Statement of Defence and Counterclaim (if any) by means of a written Statement with documents and evidence attached. There is not specific pleading standard.
According to article 365 CCP, the dispute subject matter is specified by the parties requests for relief as stated in the Statement of Claim and the following conclusions. The said requests may be amended by incident requests.
According to article 31 CCP, the Plaintiff may file incidental requests intended to correct the initial request for relief or completing it or amend its subject matter and reason.
In the same context, article 32 CCP provides that the defendant may file incidental requests, especially a set-off request and a compensation for damage request due to the statement of claim or the trial proceedings.
It is important to note that the abovementioned incidental requests should fit the requirements stated in article 30 CCP, which suppose the inherence of the incident requests with the initial relief for request, to be within the jurisdiction of the court adjudicating the initial relief for request and finally not to be within the competence of an arbitral jurisdiction.
The civil courts filings are public. The parties are not anonymised in judgments. According to article 484 CCP, the civil hearings are public unless the court decides willingly, or upon any of the Parties request, to keep it private for public order or family privacy purposes; however the judgement is publicly pronounced. TV cameras and photographers are not allowed in court.
A court can render interim assessments about factual or legal issues in dispute by issuing interlocutory decisions (قرارات اعدادية).
The parties can, at any time of the trial proceedings, conclude a settlement, even partially, and ask the presiding panel or the judge to endorse such settlement (art 461 CCP). There are no mandatory settlement conferences between the parties at the outset of or during the litigation, but the conciliation between the Parties is inherent in the judges duties. (art 375 CCP).
As stated in the above paragraph, the only mean of ADR is the conciliation made by the Judge during the court proceedings. (art 375 CCP). The parties are naturally free to include in their contracts or agree thereafter any pre-requisite ADR procedure which would have to be followed should a dispute arise.
The presiding judge and the judge of summary measures can, upon the request of any of the parties, either in consideration of a guarantee or without it, order emergency or interim relief for the protection of rights and the prevention of harms, such as apposition of seal, setting an assets inventory, order the sequestration and selling of perishable assets. (art 589 CCP).
The petitioner has to show that its rights are in danger and imminent harm which necessitates an interim relief to be taken as a matter of urgency in order to protect its rights.
The court can issue interlocutory decisions such as appointing an expert or order the parties to produce a document. The court also renders a final decision or judgment after the closure of the proceedings. A court order / decision can also be issued on the basis of an ex parte proceeding before the Lebanese courts (articles 594 to 612 CCP).
At what stage of the proceedings may a court render a decision?
A court may render its decision upon the termination of the exchanging period for briefs mentioned in A11 above. The court may also render its decision when the Parties declare that they have no new assertions and pleadings to submit and request the Court to render a judgement.
Are motions to dismiss and summary judgment available?
Motions to dismiss are available in Lebanese law, at a preliminary stage of the case, upon a partys request to a court to dismiss a case on one of several exhaustive list of grounds, including lack of jurisdiction over subject matter, lack of judicial delays and lack of quality and interest in the person of the plaintiff, res judicata etc. (arts 52 to 68 CCP)
Summary judgments are also available (see answer to Q37 below).
A default judgement is rendered when one of the Parties fails to respond to the other partys brief(s) and to present a defence to the claims made.
According to article 468 CCP para 2, if the defendant fails to appear before the court at the first audience without a reasonable excuse, although duly notified, the court may render a judgment upon the plaintiffs request.
In the same logic, and according to article 466 CCP, if the plaintiff fails to appear before the court without a reasonable excuse, although duly notified, the defendant may ask the court either to write-off the case or to render a judgment.
It usually takes about one or two years but it depends on the number of the parties and other procedural circumstances.
The involvement of third parties in proceedings is regulated by the articles 36 et seq. of the CCP.
Pursuant to article 36 CCP, a third party can intervene in the trial proceedings and become a party.
In the same context, article 38 CCP provides that any party in the trial may request the joinder of a third party to be involved in hearing the verdict, or to condemn it with inherence requests to those raised by any of the parties, or for warranty purpose.
On the other hand, the failure to join a particular party does not preclude a litigant third party from bringing the same or similar claims against that party.
As for the query if a party can involve other persons to the effect that the decision will be binding without them becoming a party, this is not sanctioned under Lebanese Law. Judicial decisions bind exclusively the parties and are extended to their successors (art 556 CCP).
According to article 132 CCP, the taking of evidence relies on the claimant of a fact. Each party in the trial is requested to assert at once all proofs it is prevailing itself of (art 133 CCP). The plaintiff is normally charged with the burden of proof, but the defendant can be required to establish certain defences.
The court, on the other hand, may order an investigation to complement the parties presented proofs (art 135 CCP).
According to article 203 CCP, a party may request the opponent to produce any productive document provided that:
According to article 205 CCP, if a party evidences its above request or the opponent avows that the document is in its possession or keeps silence, the court shall order the document to be produced immediately or within a certain time limit.
However, in case the opponent denied and the requesting party has not submitted sufficient proof of its request allegations, the above opponent should assert under oath that the disputed document does not exist or is not aware of its existence or its place and that it did not hide it or that it was negligent in searching for it.
Article 257 CCP regulates the cases which the witness evidence is accepted:
Article 256 CCP states that if the claim includes several requests arising from different sources, the witness evidence is accepted in each request not exceeding LBP 500.000, even if the total amount of the above requests exceeds the said sum and even if they arise from dealings between the Parties themselves or relate to acts having the same nature.
According to article 254 CCP, the witness evidence is not accepted:
Article 259 CCP defines the persons which are not allowed to be witnesses:
In the same context, article 260 CCP states the following:
The witness testimony is not accepted between ascendants and descendants, and between husband and wife even after the marriage dissolution. The witness evidence is also not accepted by the domestic servants to their employer nor the testimony of an agent to its client nor the testimony of a shareholder concerning the company nor the guarantor concerning the guaranteed beneficiary’s obligations.
According to article 263 CCP public sector employees / civil servants are forbidden, even after their leave, to testify on private matters which were not open to the public, unless the court issues a special permit in this respect.
Article 264 CCP forbids the attorneys, the agents, the doctors and others to divulge information they were privy to by reason of their profession.
According to article 313 CCP, the court designates an expert to perform an expertise or to submit a technical advice or to undertake a technical investigation for a special matter.
A summary judge is also entitled to appoint expert witness. Depending on the particulars of the case, there is nothing preventing a party from submitting expert reports / opinions, which would be treated as documentary evidence in the file.
Parties to proceedings cannot act as witnesses.
As for the legal person, and as stated above, the witness evidence is not accepted by a shareholder or a representative concerning companys matters.
Since a party at the proceedings cannot act as a witness, the court cannot draw negative inferences. However, a third-party witness who fails to attend is subject to a penalty. The Court may call the witness a second time and in case he or she insists on not attending the hearing, her or she will be subject to an additional penalty. Moreover, the court can subpoena the witness and compel him / her to testify by the police (art 279 CCP).
In matters of contracts, the parties can stipulate in a clause that the Lebanese courts are competent and the applicable law is the foreign law, provided the existence of a foreign element, such as the location of a plot or the nationality of one of the parties, etc. Furthermore, in matters of civil marriage concluded outside Lebanon between Lebanese, Lebanese courts are competent to determine issues arising from divorce according to the law of the country where the marriage was held.
Any foreign-language document may be introduced into the proceedings before Lebanese courts provided said document is translated into Arabic by a certified translator.
The written evidence, avow and oath come in the first level. The prima facie evidence in writing comes next and is complemented / supplemented by testimony and presumptions.
Article 639 CCP provides that all decisions issued by the Court of First Instance One Judge Court can be subject to appeal save for those which are excluded by the law. According to article 640 CCP the decisions adjudicating a dispute of an amount not exceeding LBP Three Million cannot be subject to appeal. On the other hand, the decisions issued by the Council of Arbitral Labour are not subject to appeal but only to cassation.
Standard of review
What aspects of a lower court's decisions will an appeals court review and by what standards?
Lower Courts decisions (i.e. the decisions rendered by the Court of First Instance) are subject to appeal irrespective of the amount in dispute in case of:
Around two to three years, but it depends on the number of the parties and other circumstances.
Class actions are not available in Lebanese Law.
Derivative actions are regulated by article 168 and article 167-para 1 of the code of commerce:
According to article 167-para1: the Board members of a company are liable towards the shareholders for their mismanagement.
While article 168 states that the Company has the right to sue the Board members on the basis of article 167- para 1, if the Company fails to raise such claim, every shareholder has the right to sue the Board members on behalf of the company.
The law No. 154/2011 dated 17/8/2011 (art 500) (الأصول الموجزة) Summary Proceedings states that are submitted to the fast track proceedings the lawsuits stipulated in para 1 of article 86 CCP, namely, the personal claims and the claims relating to a movable or immovable asset, which claims do not exceed LBP 100 Million. The defendant shall submit its reply within a week of its notification of the claim by the plaintiff. The judge shall issue its decision in a period not exceeding two weeks from the date the defendant submitted its reply.
It is not possible to conduct proceedings in a foreign language. The Arabic language is the official language of the State, and accordingly, is the language adopted in court proceedings.
Article 556 CCP states that the final judgement has, upon its issuance, the authority of res judicata and is directly enforced. Only the parties thereto, and to a certain extent, their successors, are bound by the judgement.
The Enforcement Bureau is the competent entity through which a domestic judgement is enforced (art 828 CCP). A domestic Judgment cannot be enforceable unless it has the force of res judicata (art 836 CCP).
A request for enforcement should be presented at the clerks office of the Enforcement Bureau including all relevant details, i.e. the name of the person requesting enforcement, the name of the opponent, his/her residence, titles (or nicknames), capacity, and elected domicile along with the judgement which execution is sought, the requested amount, and the assets to be sequestered where relevant etc. (art 837 CCP).
Foreign judgments are recognized in Lebanon via an Exequatur request which is an ex parte procedure. Article 1014 of the LCPC provides that Exequatur is granted to a foreign judgment which satisfies the following conditions:
a) The judgment should be rendered by competent judges in accordance with the laws of the country in which the decision was rendered, on the condition that their competence is not only determined by the nationality of the plaintiff. In the event that two foreign judgments are rendered by two / in the name of two different jurisdictions but in relation to the same subject matter and among the same opponents, the Enforcement Order is granted to the judgment which is in conformity with the rules of the Lebanese Law pertaining to international competence.
b) The judgment should be enforceable and should have acquired the force of res judicata in the country where it was rendered. Nevertheless, the Enforcement Order can be granted to provisional and ex parte decisions that have become enforceable in the concerned country.
c) The losing party should have been duly notified of the lawsuit which resulted in the judgment and the right of defence was duly accorded / provided to him.
d) The judgment should be rendered in the name of a country whose laws allow the enforceability of Lebanese judgments on its territories after scrutinizing them or after giving them an Exequatur.
e) The judgment does not violate Public Policy.
In principle, a losing party bears the costs of the successful party. Said costs include the fees, costs and expenses the successful party paid in order to file and plead its claim. Lawyers fees are not usually reimbursed in full.
According to article 425 CCP, any party may ask for Judicial assistance if it cannot afford the trial fees and expenses.
The contingency fees are in principle acceptable up to a certain percentage on the amount recovered should the action be successful.
The law does not address this issue.
The Bar has put in place a scale for lawyers fees, such as a companys incorporation fees, contracts fees, annual companies and individuals proxies fees, lawsuits percentage fees; however, said scale is not mandatory for lawyers, and is usually referred to as a guideline.
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Standard of review
What aspects of a lower court's decisions will an appeals court review and by what standards?