Death of Jean-Denis Bredin, committed lawyer and academician

The renowned lawyer and writer Jean-Denis Bredin, who was a professor and academician, died at the age of 92, announced Wednesday the president of Paris, Olivier Cousi.

The lawyer, professor, writer and academician Jean-Denis Bredin – whose death at 92 was announced on Wednesday – fought throughout his life against miscarriages of justice and for “another justice”, faster, less formalistic. “He was one of our most brilliant colleagues with a feather like no other who had taken him to the French Academy” in 1990, greeted the president of Paris, Olivier Cousi, in a tweet. “A very great figure of the French bar has just passed away. He will have marked his era with his talent and the many battles he led”, also wrote on Twitter the Minister of Justice, Eric Dupond-Moretti.

Father of the former Socialist Minister of Youth and Sports Frédérique Bredin, the French academician has authored some twenty historico-judicial works, including a reference book (“The Affair”, 1983) on Alfred Dreyfus, a of the most famous victims of miscarriage of justice in the history of France. A figure of the Parisian “caviar left”, Mr. Bredin was a considerate man, exquisitely polite, but this urbanity sometimes weighed on him. Thus, he chose to title his autobiography (2007) of a lucid “Too well brought up”, which followed a novel with an equally explicit title, “A wise child” (1990). “Excuse me, yes, excuse me, if I’m here, because I’m in your way (…) Knocking before entering, stepping aside in the doors, smiling, always smiling… It won’t be enough of a lifetime to be forgiven for existing,” he wrote.

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Born in Paris on May 17, 1929 – his father, a Jew, bears the name of Hirsch but the couple divorce and the father dies in 1939; the little boy will be brought up in the religion of his mother, Catholic – he received the first private law aggregation in 1957. I was “programmed to be a good student”, he will say. He teaches (he loved it) at the Faculty of Law of Rennes, Lille, at the University of Paris-Dauphine then, from 1971, at Paris I where he remained until 1993 before being named professor emeritus.

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Mozart of arbitration

A lawyer at the Paris bar since the 1950s, he joined Robert Badinter in 1965 to found a business firm that would become one of the most famous in the country. He said he shared with the future Keeper of the Seals of Socialist President François Mitterrand the same “sensitivities on human rights”. “What I’m afraid of is people’s ability to allow themselves to be dominated by fanaticism, ideologies,” he repeated. At the same time, in 1968, he worked with Minister Edgar Faure on the reform of higher education. After a stint in the 1970s as vice-president of the Movement of Left Radicals (MRG), he was entrusted with a mission by the Prime Minister on audiovisual in 1985. He was also chairman of the board of directors of the National Library, from 1982 to 1986.

Mr. Bredin was part of the support committee for Christian Ranucci, one of the last death row inmates executed in France (1976) before fighting unsuccessfully for his rehabilitation. He also fought in vain for a review of the trial of Guillaume Seznec (2006) and for the pardon of Dany Leprince (2010). But that does not distract him from his fight for the “innocent condemned”. “The time is over when a sentence pronounced was irremediable because justice was almost religious,” he pleads. His expertise leads him to participate in arbitration proceedings, a quiet way of settling disputes outside the arena of the courts. This “Mozart of arbitration”, according to the journalist and writer Franz-Olivier Giesbert, thus decides in the Greenpeace affair or that of the frigates of Taiwan.

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In the endless Adidas affair, opposing Bernard Tapie to Crédit Lyonnais, he found himself in 2014 placed under the status of assisted witness. He was part of the arbitration tribunal which had rendered a decision in favor of Mr. Tapie, allowing the latter to receive hundreds of millions of euros. His books (fiction, short stories, essays) bear witness to his struggles. His first novel, “A Guilty” (1985), is the story of a miscarriage of justice. He also denounced judicial excesses in “A court at attention” (2002, on the trial of Pierre Mendès-France in 1941), or in “L’infamie” (2012, on the trial of Riom in 1942 brought by Vichy against Léon Blum and others). He has also devoted works to figures such as Joseph Caillaux, the Abbé Sieyès, the Neckers, Charlotte Corday or Bernard Lazare, the first of the Dreyfusards, who, according to the author, “throughout his life, claimed and respected the duty of truth”.

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