French legal system hits the brakes as Sarkozy criticises judge

11 Feb, 2011

Thousands of French lawyers and judges brought the judicial system to a halt after the country’s president again attacked the courts.

Judges and lawyers across France took industrial action that resulted in a near-standstill across the country’s courts. They were demonstrating their anger at the French president who made the latest in his recent series of attacks on the judicial system.

Sarkozy’s strident criticism led to a demonstration in Paris outside the city’s Palais de Justice. Similar action took place in other cities throughout France. The latest action was the culmination of several days of protest, during which only the most urgent legal cases are getting processed.

The judges’ union called the strike action a week ago, following Sarkozy’s criticism the previous day of police and judges over the death of Laetitia Perrais. The 18-year-old’s body had been found in a pond close to Nantes. Tony Meilhon, the prime suspect, already had 15 prior convictions.

While visiting Nantes, in western France, Nicolas Sarkozy had criticised the judiciary for allowing a man like Meilhon back into public without ensuring a parole office followed him. The comment angered judges who were already incensed over the lack of resources at their disposal.

Magistrates in the court at Nantes immediately opted to suspend all non-urgent cases. Almost all courts across France have since joined their Nantes colleagues in a gesture of solidarity.

Judges in France have long complained about a lack of adequate funding. For them, the Laetitia case was simply the last straw. In Bobigny, the town’s seven-member judiciary pointed to the fact that they have to handle 10,600 cases.

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