“Today’s lawyers are tomorrow’s judges”. The platform of Jérôme Gavaudan

The report of the Committee of the States General of Justice, which was submitted to Emmanuel Macron on Friday 8 July, places the subject of human resources of the judicial institution at the center of its proposals. Who will be the magistrates of tomorrow? How many will have to be recruited and, above all, how? In order to achieve the objective of creating new positions for the government, it will be necessary – tomorrow even more than today – to bring together two key players in the judicial chain: magistrates and lawyers.

The States General of Justice recall a widespread diagnosis: despite recent efforts, France has no magistrates. In her general policy speech, therefore, the Prime Minister announced the recruitment of “8,500 additional magistrates and justice staff”, without it being possible at this stage to isolate the number of judge posts created.

Nevertheless, it seems clear that the announced cabinet ambition is of a different dimension than our current capacity for the initial training of magistrates. The final competition for entry into the National School of the Judiciary (ENM) admitted 195 student magistrates. At this rate, and except to triple or quadruple the ENM’s resources (but in what time frame?), the government’s five-year target cannot be met.

Faced with this challenge, the report of the General Assembly of States proposes a solution: calling on lawyers. For example, he emphasizes “the usefulness of integrating magistrates who have practiced the profession of lawyer, given their training and their in-depth knowledge of the functioning of the judicial institution and the fundamental principles of civil proceedings, such as the importance of the rights of the defence”.

The lawyer who becomes a magistrate brings with him an intimate, unique and complete knowledge of the litigants, both individuals and companies. The black robes would also en masse import into the judiciary their own culture of the rights of defence, their European reflex, their sense of protecting citizens, their entrenched attachment to independence. There are more than 71,000, spread all over France. This unique geographical network is a guarantee of proximity to the citizen. These social and economic players, integrated into the heart of French society, live together with their fellow citizens.

In its report, the committee deplores “the lack of a recruitment system adapted to the search for high-level profiles, such as the slowness and inconsistency of the lateral recruitment process”.

An obstacle course today

While magistrates benefit from direct integration into the legal profession, experienced lawyers who wish to benefit from integration into the judicial body of the judiciary must:

  • either pass a competition that is incompatible with continued activity in a company;
  • either submit a file and wait for the committee’s discretionary advice, which will take several months, then, if accepted, undergo a seven-month probationary period and at the end of which, if found suitable, he will undergo a six-month traineeship dedicated to the exercise of the chosen function. The lawyer will therefore have to suspend his professional activity for at least seven months, with a possible refusal at the end. And in the best case scenario, he has to wait 13 months before taking up his new profession.

For many years, the Conseil national des barreaux, which represents all lawyers in France, has supported the establishment of a procedure for the admission of law to the judiciary for lawyers who can prove an uninterrupted period of practice of ten years in the legal field. There are other proposals to ‘flow’ the job mobility of people dressed in black to the courts as best as possible.

It is now necessary to establish this new trust pact between actors of the judicial family. The future of justice today depends on the pooling of all skills and all experience. This is the condition for meeting the challenge of the law recognized by the citizens in whose name it is pronounced.

Jérôme Gavaudan is president of the Conseil national des barreaux, member of the committee of the States General of Justice.

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