CRITICISM – Through the journey of four criminal lawyers, Lisa Vignoli questions the place and representation of women, the majority within this legal profession. Tenorasa documentary not to be missed, this Saturday October 15 at 9 p.m. on Public Sénat.
Even if they officiate in robes, great lawyers are men, at least in the collective unconscious. One of the most famous of the XXe century was even called Boy. But while criminals generally remain male, more and more women are defending them – and trying them. After writing with M.e Julia Minkowski The lawyer was a woman (JC Lattès, 2021, and now available in paperback), devoted to the journey of nine criminal lawyers, Lisa Vignoli has selected four of them who are the subject of her documentary: Tenoras.
Paradoxically, the interest of the film, broadcast this Saturday October 15 on Public Sénat (9 p.m.) lies in the fact that there are not that many differences between men and women when it comes to defending body and soul. Mare Sophie Rey-Gascon, Marie Dosé, Jacqueline Laffont and Cécile de Oliveira (the only “provincial” in the cast) have the same fundamental approach to their mission as their bearded colleagues. But they show more fair play and modesty than them. When she is a civil party, Me by Oliveira “enrages when the accused is not perfectly defended”. To the point of occasionally slipping a few arguments to his opponent, she confides.
Models and pioneers
Me Laffont, she worked out with her husband, Pierre Haïk, the defense of Nicolas Sarkozy, who had initially designated the man of the couple. When illness took Me Haïk from the courtrooms, his wife handed over her mandate to the former President of the Republic – who renewed her without hesitation. How many men would have taken the risk of having to give up such a famous client? The “tenoras” do not have many role models to identify with, hence no doubt the creation of a neologism to designate them. Who remembers Jeanne Chauvin, the first woman authorized to plead (it was necessary to change the law so that, covered with diplomas that she was, she could take an oath in Paris), at the dawn of the XXe century? Or of Germaine Brière, who defended at Le Mans, in 1933, Christine, one of the two Papin sisters, in one of the most famous cases in judicial history?
The figure of Gisèle Halimi
Admittedly, the contemporary figure of Gisèle Halimi is better known to the general public; that of Françoise Cotta is authoritative in the small world of the bar. But we remember the photo of the lawyers presented as the most prominent published, in 2010, by a weekly: only men delighted to be there, with a clear conscience, since the President of Paris was then a woman, Dominique de La Garanderie, the perfect alibi that saved the cliché from the accusation of sexism. However, twelve years ago there were already renowned criminal lawyers, such as – in addition to the “tenoras” of the film – Emmanuelle Kneusé, Marie-Alix Canu-Bernard, Clarisse Serre, Clotilde Lepetit and her associates, Sophie Obadia…
The most moving image of the documentary shows Cécile de Oliveira in her secret garden, the island of Ouessant. This is where the criminal lawyer comes to wash away the misfortunes of the world that she faces daily, on one side or the other of the bar. In a cold and dangerous sea to which she speaks with such eloquence that the waves do her no harm.