Justice : Insufficient means and independence of the judiciary

The two presidents of the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSM), Christophe Soulard, who presides over the bench, and François Molins, who presides over the prosecutor’s office, agreed to answer our questions about the malaise of the magistrates. The CSM is a constitutional body responsible for assisting the President of the Republic in his role as guarantor of the independence of the judicial authority.

Christophe Soulard (Cour de cassation, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Christophe Soulard (Cour de cassation, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)
  • François Molins (Cour de cassation)
    François Molins (Cour de cassation)

    A magistrate of the judicial court of Nanterre, Marie Truchet, died on October 18, 2022 in the middle of a hearing. At the end of August 2021, a young magistrate from Béthune committed suicide. Many magistrates of the judicial order in particular complain of an overload of work and are in burn-out. Is the CSM aware of the real suffering of magistrates in the workplace, even if it is obviously not very new?

Christophe Soulard and François Molins: “The Superior Council of the Judiciary is perfectly aware of the extent of the malaise within the judiciary. Indeed, many members of the Council are themselves judges, the Council visits all the jurisdictions during its term of office, and the hearings it conducts as part of its appointment activity provide an opportunity for frank exchanges with the heads of court and jurisdiction.

“A feeling of despair, even shame”

  •  A tribune entitled “We no longer want a justice system that does not listen and that times everything” was signed last year by more than 3,000 magistrates out of about 9,000. Things have not improved since then. Are the working conditions so difficult in the courts? And how can this institutional abuse be remedied?

Christophe Soulard and François Molins: “The tribune had the great merit of contributing to an awareness that finally went far beyond the specialists of the judicial world, while the Estates General of Justice were being held. In this sense, it is certainly not unrelated to the fact that the report of the Committee of the Estates General is so implacable on this point, speaking of a “feeling of despair, even shame” in the face of the lack of human and material resources. In reality, the system only holds together thanks to the commitment and dedication of magistrates and civil servants.

The ethical and deontological requirements of judges

More broadly, the Council, which at the time received the initial authors of the forum for a discussion, is convinced that the working conditions of judges, their “ethical suffering” with regard to the discrepancy between the inadequacy of resources and the nobility of their mission, ultimately raise questions about the independence of the judiciary. Indeed, there can be no independence when the conditions of professional practice are in contradiction with ethical and deontological requirements. The only solution to give back to the judiciary the place it deserves in a democracy is a strong investment by the public authorities. In this respect, the recent measures announced by the government, notably in terms of recruitment, are unquestionably of unprecedented scope. These announcements must now be translated into action and ambitious and appropriate responses must be provided to the fundamental problems highlighted by the Estates General Committee.

  • The Minister of Justice, Eric Dupont-Moretti, confirms this by explaining that he is paying for “twenty years of political, human and budgetary abandonment of justice”. Is this also your opinion?

Christophe Soulard and François Molins: “You can’t repair decades of failed public policies in such a short time. The path to restoring to the judicial system the means that are commensurate with its missions will therefore necessarily be a long-term one. It must also involve a transformation and modernization of the judicial institution. In this respect, the role of the CSM is twofold. First of all, the Council must contribute, through a fruitful and demanding dialogue with the public authorities, to the reforms that must be carried out. Above all – and this is its constitutional role – the Council must ensure that the reforms carried out do not undermine the independence of the judicial authority.