Confidence in justice and professional secrecy of lawyers: final vote in the Senate

The adoption Thursday by the high assembly of this reform wanted by Éric Dupont-Moretti will be worth final adoption.

Parliament is preparing to adopt definitively Thursday, November 18, by a final vote of the Senate, the bill “for confidence in the judicial institution”whose controversial provisions relating to the professional secrecy of lawyers were retouched in extremis at the National Assembly.

Filmed hearings, supervision of the duration of preliminary investigations, encouragement to wear electronic bracelets, generalization in 2023 of departmental criminal courts, creation of a national center for serial crimes… The text by Éric Dupond-Moretti, which was the subject of an agreement between deputies and senators meeting in a joint joint committee (CMP), was adopted on Tuesday by 66 votes for, 11 against and 11 abstentions at the Palais Bourbon. The vote of the High Assembly, dominated by the right-wing opposition, will therefore be worth final adoption.

Completed by an organic component, the text also provides for the abolition of automatic sentence reduction credits, a reform of prison labor and replaces reminders of the law with a “probationary criminal warning”. A provision introduced by government amendment in the Senate also opens the door to a review of the very old Mis and Thiennot case, dating back to 1947.

Turmoil among lawyers

But it is the measures relating to the professional secrecy of lawyers that have created the most stir. The profession expressed its opposition again on Wednesday before the Senate. The compromise text reached by deputies and senators enshrines the professional secrecy of the lawyer in his defense activity but plans to frame it in his consulting activity. In addition to terrorism, exceptions are thus provided for in terms of tax evasion and corruption. These provisions raised the grumbling of black dresses. And a final attempt by the Keeper of the Seals, himself a former lawyer, to iron out the misunderstandings resulted in the request of the National Bar Council (CNB) to purely and simply delete the controversial article.

In an amendment adopted by the deputies, the government chose to marginally retouch part of the device without going back on its main balances. It confirms the presence of the President of the Bar during searches and removes the exception relating to the one where the lawyer made “the object of maneuvers or actions for the purpose of allowing, in an unintentional manner, the commission, pursuit or concealment of an offence”. “I take note of the position of the CNB but in conscience and responsibility, I want to devote with the parliamentarians the major advances” of the text, said Éric Dupond-Moretti before the deputies.

The LREM rapporteur for the bill in the Assembly, Stéphane Mazars, regretted a “corporatist partisan posture” lawyers. “There is a united position of the government, the National Assembly and the Senate” on this amendment, Philippe Bonnecarrère, centrist co-rapporteur of the text in the Senate, told AFP. “It removes a provision which gave rise to difficulties of interpretation”, he specified. A professional secret “widespread” of the lawyer is “a myth”according to Philippe Bonnecarrère, for whom the text is “lawyer-friendly”. He “extends” professional secrecy in the consulting activity, “in the field of business”, “even if we considered that society cannot disarm itself on subjects that affect its functioning, corruption, tax evasion”. The text also offers the legal profession “important guarantees during searches, which she did not have”he points out.

More generally, co-rapporteur LR Agnès Canayer was skeptical about the ability of this bill “composite” to achieve the goal “ambitious” that it displays. “By legislating on trust in the judiciary when the States General of Justice have just opened, we are putting the cart before the horse”, said Marie-Pierre de La Gontrie (PS) on the left. She also lamented “the absence of measures in favor of everyday justice”.

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