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Ways to defuse conflicts between magistrates and lawyers

It happens that distressing events produce a salutary electroshock. On March 11, 2021, at the court in Aix-en-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône), a dispute over a request for a judgment from a client separately from the ten other defendants, in a major drug trafficking case, turned into a fight between the lawyer and the presiding judge. The latter ended up asking the police to evacuate his opponent by force. Lawyers for the ten other defendants turned on their heels in protest. It didn’t take much for the Joint Advisory Council on Ethics for the Judge-Lawyer Relationship to get to work.

Created in June 2019 to respond to the observation of a slow but certain deterioration in relations between magistrates and lawyers, this council will have waited until May 26, 2021 to hold its first meeting with representatives of the upper crust of the two professions (Court of Cassation, Superior Council of the judiciary, presidents of courts of appeal, public prosecutors, National Bar Council, Conference of Presidents of the Bar, etc.). The three working groups set up on this occasion defied the usual rhythms of justice to deliver their remarkable copy in record time. Their reports were released Friday, June 24.

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Side “uses and good practices”, he is reminded in the first place of these two professions, between which the concord “is necessary for the proper functioning of justice”, that an old tradition exists, called “faith of the palace”. We remember that misuse of this space for informal and confidential exchange between a magistrate and a lawyer had caused, in December 2017, the pure and simple adjournment of the trial at the assizes of Georges Tron, then defended by a certain Eric Dupond-Moretti, now Minister of justice.

A call for better understanding

This “common construction (…) must be restored, preserved and inscribed in the future”. The faith of the palace has “for the sole purpose of improving the judicial institution and the delivery of justice”, we read in these documents. But it requires “Trust, Honor and Loyalty”. To guarantee its full effectiveness for this use not recorded in the procedures, the working group has decided not to confine it to a field. Flexibility and responsibility, in compliance with oaths and respective ethical obligations, are the key words of this dialogue window intended to avoid misunderstandings or circumvent blockages.

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