August 2, 2021

a disturbing standoff

Editorial. Since the appointment of Eric Dupond-Moretti to the Chancellery in July 2020, relations between the Keeper of the Seals and the magistrates have taken an unprecedented turn. The conflictual relationship that the two camps seem to maintain led on Friday July 16 to the indictment of the Minister of Justice for illegal taking of interests, after nearly six hours of hearing by the investigating committee of the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR).

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Eric Dupond-Moretti indicted for “illegal taking of interests”, a first for a keeper of the seals

In other times, this indictment would have led to the immediate resignation of the minister, under the lazzis of a public opinion which no longer forgives much to politicians. But this time, the person concerned, protected by the Head of State, resists and gives back blow for blow, under the jaded gaze of the French who do not really know whom to trust, so much confidence in institutions, in general, has eroded.

The suspicions against the Keeper of the Seals, a former renowned criminal and major defender of judges, are serious: by ordering administrative inquiries on several magistrates, including three from the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF), Eric Dupond-Moretti would have benefited from his ministerial office to settle accounts in cases in which he had been involved as a lawyer. The three PNF magistrates had notably gone through his detailed telephone records when he was still a lawyer. They were then looking for a possible “mole” of Nicolas Sarkozy in the so-called “tapping” affair, in which the former head of state is being prosecuted.

The counter-attack led by the Keeper of the Seals is up to the charge against him. His relatives say he is the victim of “Cabal” organized by a justice “Politicized”: two magistrates’ unions and the Anticor association are behind the investigation against him. The Attorney General at the Court of Cassation, François Molins, who had spoken in the press, is accused of being a judge and party: consulted by the director of the office of the Keeper of the Seals, he allegedly approved the opening of the administrative investigation against PNF magistrates before opening the investigation at the CJR.

Macron takes up the cause for his minister

The conflict between judges and politicians is as old as the Republic. The more the former have strengthened their power, the more the latter have sought to counter it, in particular by denouncing attacks on the presumption of innocence. A lawyer by training, the former President of the Republic Nicolas Sarkozy did not hesitate to lead a heavy charge against certain magistrates of the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office who had implicated him. Never, however, had the tension so weakened a Keeper of the Seals and threatened to upset the balance of power.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also The indictment of Eric Dupond-Moretti embarrasses politicians

In the Council of Ministers, the President of the Republic took up the cause of his minister by recalling that “Justice is an authority, not a power”. The president of the Senate, Gérard Larcher (LR), has indicated that he will not ask for the resignation of Eric Dupond-Moretti. Two members of the CJR (an LRM parliamentarian and an LR) resigned to express their discomfort at the initiation of the proceedings against the Keeper of the Seals. As accuser, justice is in turn in the position of accused and, as it is unloved and misunderstood, it risks being the victim of the same populism that has affected politicians for years.

The result is worrying for both parties, who find themselves weakened. Emmanuel Macron had chosen the former tenor of the bar so that the French regain confidence in their justice. At this stage, Eric Dupond-Moretti rather gives the impression of having put down a stick of dynamite.

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