“Today’s lawyers are tomorrow’s magistrates”. Jérôme Gavaudan’s platform

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

The Estates General of Justice recall a widely shared diagnosis: despite recent efforts, France lacks magistrates. In her general policy speech, the Prime Minister therefore announced the recruitment of “8,500 additional magistrates and justice personnel”, without it being possible at this stage to isolate the number of creation of judge posts.

It nevertheless seems obvious that the announced government ambition is of another dimension than our current capacity for the initial training of magistrates. The last competition for access to the National School for the Judiciary (ENM) admitted 195 student-magistrates. At this rate, and except to triple or quadruple the means of the ENM (but in what timeframe?), the objective that the government will set for the five-year term cannot be achieved.

Faced with this challenge, the report of the Estates General Committee proposes a solution: resort to lawyers. He thus emphasizes “the usefulness of integrating magistrates who have practiced the profession of lawyer, given their training and their intimate knowledge of the functioning of the judicial institution and the fundamental principles of civil proceedings, such as importance of the rights of defence”.

The lawyer who becomes a magistrate carries with him an intimate, unique and complete knowledge of the litigants, individuals as well as companies. The black robes would also massively import into the judiciary their own culture of the rights of the defense, their European reflex, their sense of the protection of citizens, their visceral attachment to independence. They are more than 71,000, spread throughout France. This unique geographic network is a guarantee of proximity to citizens. These social and economic actors, integrated into the heart of French society, live in unison with their fellow citizens.

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

Today, an obstacle course

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

  • either pass a competition incompatible with sustained activity in a firm;
  • either submit a file and wait for the discretionary opinion of the commission, which takes several months, then, if accepted, follow seven months’ probationary training at the end of which, if he is found fit, he will follow a six-month internship dedicated to the exercise of the chosen function. The lawyer will therefore have to suspend his professional activity for a minimum of seven months with, at the end, a possible refusal. And, in the best of cases, he will have to wait 13 months before exercising his new profession.

For years, the Conseil national des barreaux, which represents all lawyers in France, has supported the creation of a procedure for the admission of law into the magistracy for lawyers who can prove an uninterrupted period of practice in the legal field of ten years. Other proposals exist to “fluidify” as best as possible the professional mobility of black-robed people towards the courts.

It is now necessary to record this new pact of trust 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 taking up the challenge of justice recognized by the citizens in whose name it is rendered.

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

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