“We are being pushed out of judges’ offices and courtrooms”

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They are teachers, lawyers, entertainers, farmers… After two years of a pandemic, a new reform or an economic crisis, how has their professional daily life changed? How, today, would these women and men like to practice their profession? A few weeks before the presidential election, “the Obs” gives them the floor.

In reference to the anaphora used by François Hollande during the interval between the two rounds of the election in 2012, this series of articles wishes to question the candidates on the reality of these professions.

After months of mobilization, the States General of Justice, launched with great fanfare on October 18 by Emmanuel Macron, were to reconcile magistrates, lawyers, ministers responsible and litigants. Five months later, justice is still sick, notes Virginie Marques, lawyer in Seine-Saint-Denis. “Wind, glitter”regrets this elected to the union council of the Syndicate of Lawyers of France, questioned by “the Obs”.

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It has been sixteen years since Virginie Marques was sworn in. First collaborator in a firm, she settled on her own in 2012, in Seine-Saint-Denis, to specialize in criminal law. “I always wanted to do this”, she explains. However, his working conditions are deteriorating. Successive reforms, legislative one-upmanship “tend to keep us away from the litigants”. The justice system has been exhausted for a long time. But for four or five years, Virginia Marques has noticed a disintegration of her profession, “truly suffering justice”.

A persistent lack of resources

At the end of 2021, Minister of Justice Eric Dupond-Moretti defended his record, again touting a budget “historical” for justice under his mandate: in 2022, it will be 8.9 billion euros compared to 6.8 billion euros in 2017, i.e. “an increase of more than 30% over this five-year period”. However, this increase in the budget of French justice is far from having solved the recurring lack of means. Overcrowded courtrooms, lack of magistrates, sick leaves which are on the rise among judicial personnel, lack of space and manpower… The list of grievances goes on indefinitely. For Virginia Brands:

“It is essential today to strengthen the means of justice. We must not take the same path as in other public services, we must keep things human. In front of us, we have people who need help, who don’t have the necessary knowledge and who can be discouraged by the difficulty of the task. »

Because having an adoption recognized, requesting the modification of a right of access or bringing an action before the industrial tribunal are three distinct procedures. Without help, most people are helpless in the face of legal terms and red tape.

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This reality is mainly due to the low budget allocated by the State to the courts and to legal aid. According to the European Commission’s 2020 report for the efficiency of justice, in the countries studied whose GDP per capita is comparable to that of France, the average amount devoted to the courts is 84.13 euros per capita, i.e. 0.32% of GDP. France devotes only 69.51 euros per inhabitant to it, i.e. 0.20% of GDP, ranking 13and rank of European countries out of the 15 with comparable GDPs.

Number logic

Beyond this lack of means, Virginie Marques deplores a “numerical culture”, a logic of profitability. Between hearings closed without follow-up or the obligation to deal with divorce cases “in fifteen minutes”lawyers face a terrible dilemma: “Jto act quickly but badly, or to judge well but within unacceptable delays. »

“Heads of jurisdiction count in stockslets go of the lawyer. In stock, can you imagine? It looks like a business, when it’s people we’re talking about! » The number of files awaiting processing thus makes it possible to determine whether a service is functioning more or less well. Referrals, alternative procedures to prosecution, immediate appearances are preferred to long hearings. “Our magistrates are motivated, but there is no place to hear cases. And we lawyers have been pushed out of judges’ offices and out of courtrooms. »

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In France, today, resorting to justice has become a veritable Stations of the Cross, according to the lawyer. The magistrates, overwhelmed by the mass of work and forced to “doing judgment felling” to comply with the productivity imposed by the ministry, no longer have the time to listen. “This culture of numbers hurts a lot. »

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Faced with these difficulties, many young lawyers choose to reorient themselves, often in the private sector, to become in-house lawyers. In the first ten years of activity, they are thus 30 to 40% to leave the dress, according to a report submitted to the Ministry of Justice in 2017. “We say to ourselves what good is it”, regrets Virginie Marques, who sees more and more lawyers leaving the profession. However, ” No way “ for her to hang up her dress.

“Populist outbidding”

Virginia Marques is far from the only one to make these observations. On December 15, magistrates, lawyers and clerks gathered en masse in front of the courts to demand means “worthy” for righteousness. Three weeks before, a forum, signed by more than 3,000 magistrates, denounced the suffering at work and a loss of meaning. Despite this broad mobilization, the criminal lawyer feels disillusioned by the political response. “It’s pitiful, useless. A kind of populist one-upmanship instead of concrete measures to improve the situation…”

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“What we have done in terms of the budget is the best that has been done”assured Wednesday, April 9 the Minister of Justice Eric Dupond-Moretti, during a meeting with lawyers in Paris, while acknowledging that “the magistrates are right to say that they lack the means”. “We must not stop there, of course”insisted the Minister, emphasizing “there is still work to be done”. Speaking in veiled terms about his future at the head of the Chancellery, Eric Dupond-Moretti reassured his hosts: “Wherever I am, whatever I do, I can tell you that I will always defend your profession with great determination. »

“A beautiful communication operation, a bandage on a raw wound”rejects Virginia Marques, who above all wants “a long-term plan” and the massive hiring of magistrates and clerks. Same story with regard to the Estates General of Justice. “Justice repairs the evils of other public services. Everything is connected. These few months of consultation cannot solve the impoverishment of French justice. »

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