All dressed in their black dress and white collar, they were a hundred years of lawyers to be reunited before the Toulouse Court of Appeal this Tuesday November 16, 2021 at 1 p.m.. In question : article 3 of the bill “for confidence in the judicial institution” carried by the government.
The text went to the National Assembly yesterday afternoon to be definitively adopted. But lawyers accused the latter of treat professional secrecy. At scale national as at the local level, they are mobilize against what they begin as an “attack on individual freedoms”.
“An attack on the rule of law”
“Stealing your secrets is killing your freedom”. This sentence from the Order lawyers from Toulouse sums up in a few words the reason for showing their anger in recent weeks. Indeed, article 56 (indent 1 and 2) provides for the lifting of professional secrecy by investigators “when the lawyer has been the subject of maneuvers or actions for the purpose of unintentionally allowing the commission or prosecution or concealment of an offense”.
For, Pierre Dunac, president of the Toulouse Bar Association, questioned by The Independent Opinion, it’s a “undermining the rule of law and democracy“. According to him, the professional secret benefit not the lawyer, but the general interest and the citizens. “It is like medical confidentiality. And that protects him against an ever more inquisitive gaze from society, “he adds. Professional secrecy is guaranteed by the law of December 31, 1981. The process requires to “give in to pack justice and populism, where the citizen risks being increasingly subjected to pressure from the State “, denounces Pierre Dunac.
“Sloppy” and “fuzzy” writing
The bill sponsored by the government should normally make it possible to fight against tax fraud, money laundering, corruption and terrorism. But Frédéric Langlois, vice-president of the Toulouse Bar Association denounces “a sloppy writing” and “blurry“. Indeed, paragraph 2 of the article does not specify the type of offense which involves the lifting of the secrecy of the exchanges between a lawyer and his client.
“And he does not foresee no prior appeal from the judge either“, adds the latter questioned by The Independent Opinion. “In some Anglo-Saxon countries, there is precisely a control of the judge. And it authorizes or not the consultation of the files of the lawyer “, explains again Frédéric Langlois. For him, this article thus question the quality of their work. “We consider that the lawyer can be instrumentalized by his client,” he explains.
An “inconsistent timing”
Lawyers are also wondering about the timing of the government. “We are told about confidence in justice. About organizing States General to consult the population on his improvement. And on take this measure. the Hourly is totally incoherent and illegible», Says Frédéric Langlois.
According to him, it would have been necessary to wait for what emerged from this consultation and to adapt the measures. The same goes for Pierre Dunac: “the State has considerable resources to prosecute individuals who commit offenses”. But “we do not pursue them by seeking secrets from those who defend them or advise them,” he adds. According to him, this may indeed deteriorate customer confidence in the one who defends it.
>> ALSO READ: Justice: a reform to regain the confidence of the French
New actions planned?
Last night the text was adopted by the National Assembly despite the mobilization of lawyers. However, Minister of Justice Eric Dupont-Moretti has to file UN modification just before. This last delete paragraph 2 of the article and provides for the possibility for the president to be present in search. But for lawyers, it is insufficient.
They want the “outright withdrawal” of Article 3, explains the President of the Bar. And while the text passes before the Senate on Thursday, November 18,other actions are already planned from this Wednesday. The objective is that “citizens understand that very serious things are happening in our society and that we are once again dealing with parliamentarians who behave like irresponsible people”, Pierre Dunac concludes.