Confidence in justice, professional secrecy of lawyers: final adoption by Parliament

The Parliament definitively adopted this Thursday, by a final vote of the Senate, the bill to restore confidence in the justice of the Keeper of the Seals Éric Dupond-Moretti, with its controversial provisions relating to the professional secrecy of lawyers. The text, which notably provides for the possibility of filming the trials, was voted on at the Luxembourg Palace by 235 votes for and 94 votes against. It was adopted Tuesday by the National Assembly.

Filmed hearings, supervision of the duration of preliminary investigations, encouragement of electronic bracelets, generalization in 2023 of departmental criminal courts, creation of a national center for serial crimes… The text, which was the subject of an agreement between deputies and senators meeting in a joint committee (CMP), was voted on at the Luxembourg Palace by 235 votes for and 94 votes against. It was adopted Tuesday by the National Assembly.

It is the culmination of a “long and winding road which, in recent weeks, has been closer to the Corsican rally than a long health walk”, launched co-rapporteur LR Agnès Canayer. Supplemented by an organic component, the text also provides for the abolition of automatic sentence reduction credits, a reform of inmate labor and replaces reminders of the law with a “probationary criminal warning”.

A provision introduced by government amendment in the Senate also opens the door to a review of the very old Mis and Thiennot case, which dates back to 1947. But it is the measures relating to the professional secrecy of lawyers that have created the most whirlpool. The profession expressed its opposition again on Wednesday before the Senate.

“Extension” of professional secrecy

The compromise text reached by deputies and senators enshrines the professional secrecy of the lawyer in his defense activity but plans to frame it in his consulting activity. In addition to terrorism, exceptions are thus provided for in terms of tax evasion and corruption. These provisions raised the grumbling of black dresses. And a final attempt by the Keeper of the Seals, himself a former lawyer, to iron out the misunderstandings, resulted in the request of the National Bar Council (CNB) to purely and simply delete the controversial article.

In an amendment subsequent to the CMP agreement, the government chose to marginally alter part of the system without going back on its main balances. It confirms the presence of the President of the Bar during searches and removes the exception relating to that where the lawyer has been “the subject of maneuvers or actions for the purpose of allowing, in an unintentional manner, the commission, the prosecution or the concealment of a offence”. “Nobody can say that we wanted to kill the professional secrecy of lawyers, that we would be the gravediggers, (…) it’s the opposite”, affirmed Mr. Dupond-Moretti.

A “generalized” professional secrecy of the lawyer is “a myth”, according to Philippe Bonnecarrère, centrist co-rapporteur of the bill in the Senate, for whom the text is “friendly to lawyers”. It allows “an extension” of professional secrecy to the activity of advice, “to the field of business”, “even if it has been considered that society cannot disarm itself on subjects which affect its functioning, corruption, tax evasion”. The text also offers the legal profession “important guarantees during searches, which it did not have”, he underlines.

“A text by Éric Dupond-Moretti for Éric Dupond-Moretti”

More generally, Ms. Canayer said she was “still not convinced that this composite text alone will restore confidence in justice”. It is “too modest in the face of the scale of the task”, added the centrist Dominique Vérien, hoping “a future bill from the states general of justice” which have just opened on the initiative of President Emmanuel Macron.

The left has rejected a text which, according to the president of the majority communist CRCE group Eliane Assassi, “still belongs in its deep philosophy to the old world”. It “risks aggravating the drift towards a justice essentially responding to a demand for more firmness”, judged the ecologist Guy Benarroche, while the socialist Jean-Yves Leconte deplored that it “does not deal at all with the question of civil affairs”, “everyday justice”.

Marie-Pierre de La Gontrie (PS) launched a targeted attack against the Keeper of the Seals, lambasting “a text by Éric Dupond-Moretti for Éric Dupond-Moretti”, which carries “changes which will interest Éric Dupond-Moretti litigant . The minister is indicted for “illegal taking of interest”.

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