Jean Reinhart, the lawyer bereaved by the attacks of November 13, 2015

Jean Reinhart is the lawyer for 13onze15 Fraternité-Vérité, one of the associations of victims of the attacks of November 13, 2015. He will accompany a hundred civil parties to this trial. He himself lost one of his nephews at the Bataclan.

Me Jean Reinhart is the lawyer for the association 13onze 15 Fraternité-Vérité and a hundred civil parties to the trial of the attacks of November 13 © AFP / LOIC VENANCE / AFP

Jean Reinhart is a modest. “I almost never became a lawyer”, he jokes, in his huge office, with a sumptuous view of the Eiffel Tower. This great name of the Parisian barsmall round eyes and brown mop of hair, says that her vocation was born by chance, in adolescence. “Because in adolescence, we always have models, and I had a very good friend whose father was funny, amusing, literary, cultured as ever, and this man was a lawyer”. It is to resemble him that the young Jean dreams of being a lawyer. “But he would have been a plumber, I think I would have become a plumber. Or if he had been a baker, I would have become a baker. What I wanted to be was just to be spiritual like him”.

He loses his childhood friends in a car accident, a few days from passing the Paris bar with him

His baccalaureate in his pocket, the young Jean therefore enrolled in the faculty of law, the prestigious university of Assas, in Paris. Paris is her birthplace, but at home “the hour is international”, he confides. Her father was a Swiss banker, her mother an American who often returned to Manhattan. His home, “there was always a clock on New York time”. Law school makes him happy. “I fell in love with law, and I wonder why it is not taught earlier, from primary school, like mathematics”.

Very quickly, between two lectures, the student Reinhart becomes an intern with the lawyer he admires so much. The internship becomes a full-time job, and the student Reinhart does not set foot too much in Assas. And when he takes the bar exam, “disappointment the review didn’t welcome me”. This first failure upsets him, but he calmly continues his practice internship, waiting until the following year. Except that the following year, his adored mother falls ill, and Jean Reinhart no longer has the head for studies.

He still re-enters the competition. A few days before the new event, he is invited to an evening at Chantilly, with his two childhood friends. They have to go there together by car. That day, Jean’s mother suffered a “particularly painful chemo”. He decides to watch her in the early evening, and to join his friends later to take his mind off things. They will never meet again. Jean-François and Bruno, the two friends of Jean Reinhart are killed in a road accident, in the car that he himself should have borrowed that evening. Their death is an immense pain, “I came home in an absolute fog, childhood friends are still the best”, said Jean, her voice sad. His friend Jean-François was the much adored lawyer’s son. Jean-François should have taken the bar exam too, a few days later.

On the day of the competition, Jean Reinhart has a heavy heart and the ordeal is all the more terrible as the examiners have installed the candidates in alphabetical order, as often. “As we had very similar surnames and Jean-François’ parents hadn’t had time to unregister him from the competition, I found myself on the floor at the same table as his, with his place empty at next to me”. The statement of the competition can be summed up in two words: “therapeutic relentlessness”. On the copy that he furiously blackens, Jean Reinhart expresses his revolt, recounts his tragedy, accuses the examiners and pleads never again to impose such sensitive subjects. That year, he won the competition and became a lawyer. We are in 1988.

Long-time lawyer for CAC 40 companies

He was 26 when he moved into his own practice, with some of the money his mother left him; she was taken away by cancer. In this office “when we were little, we weren’t specialized, we did what the client asked us, and he would have asked us to repaint the ceiling, we might not have done it, but not far”, laughs Jean Reinhart. In this jack-of-all-trades firm, he gradually specialized in labor law and business criminal law. Then it becomes “a fan of criminal procedure”.

The firm is growing. Jean Reinhart begins to collect media records. He becomes the lawyer of the UIMM, the union of industries and trades of metallurgy, “with the banknotes circulating to make social dialogue more fluid”. He enters the EADS business, “with the problem of insider trading”. Is the defender of Société Générale “against the small aberrations of Mr. Kerviel”. There is also the Renault dossier on fake spies. Or the Madoff affair. From business to business, Me Reinhart joins the “very friendly little club of business criminals”. He specifies : “I am more of a lawyer for the CAC 40, I plead more for French companies, despite my international origins”.

Me Jean Reinhart, in the office of his vast Parisian firm.
Me Jean Reinhart, in the office of his vast Parisian firm. © Radio France / Sophie Parmentier

Financial affairs fascinate him, but what Jean Reinhart loves more than anything, “it’s helping people”. In January 2015, just after the attacks that had just struck Charlie Hebdo, Sodexo contacted him. The company employed Frederic Boisseau, the first victim of the Kouachi brothers, who shot this employee in the lobby of the satirical newspaper building. Sodexo asks Jean Reinhart to defend the interests of Catherine, Frédéric’s widow. He is devastated by this tragic story. For the first time in his life, he immersed himself in a terrorist file, began to associate with the magistrates of the anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office, andthe investigating judges of the Saint-Elo galleryi. A world he had never known before.

On November 14, he learns of the death of his nephew, whom he loved like a son

November 13, 2015, when the kamikaze commandos begin to sow terror around the Stade de France and then in Paris, his phone rings. At the end of the line, his children are worried. Because they know that their cousin Valentin is at the Bataclan. Valentin Ribet, nephew of Jean Reinhartposted a comment and a photo on social networks, before going to listen to the concert of Eagles of Death Metal with his lover, Eva. Barely informed, Jean Reinhart begins to fear the worst. He enters “in mad anxiety”, calls his entire address book until four in the morning in the hope of obtaining encouraging information. But at midnight, learning that Eva left the Bataclan alone, seriously injured in the back, he is not very optimistic. “I had this intimate perception that the drama had happened”. On the morning of November 14, 2015, Jean Reinhart learns of the death of this nephew he loved so much.

Valentin Ribet was the son of Olivier Ribet and Nadine Ribet-Reinhart, sister of Jean Reinhart. He was 26 years old, and he had just become a lawyer, like his uncle Jean. His uncle loved him like a son, and often welcomed him home, or took him on vacation to the sea or to the mountains, with all the children of his tribe. Jean Reinhart loved the British side of his nephew. “I knew Valentin by heart, I was very close to him, and to Eva. With Valentin, we shared the same tongue-in-cheek humor. We were both playing verbally, it was very moving”.

On November 14, 2015, Jean Reinhart, devastated, moved heaven and earth to try to soothe the pain of his sister, of all those close to him, of the whole family. He fights for her to go as quickly as possible to the IML, the Forensic Institute where the suffering is unbearable, to see the loved bodies through a window, covered with a white sheet which hides the wounds. “We were only able to see his face, and only kiss Valentin later, when we put the coffin in the coffin”. Jean Reinhart pleads with anti-terrorism magistrates to ask that autopsies, which are usually automatic in criminal cases, be dispensed with. The urgency seems to him rather to return all the dead to their families. The magistrates agree and the autopsies are replaced by scanners.

“We understand each other with the civil parties when they tell me about their November 13, we speak the same language”

On the weekend of November 14 and 15, 2015, Jean Reinhart also fights to go see the crime scene at the Bataclan. He obtains an authorization, with the lawyer of the theater. “It was striking, I still remember the smell of blood, there were puddles of blood, it stank of death, there were still pieces of bone that we stumbled on, probably the remains of the terrorists who blew themselves up”. For Jean Reinhart, being in the middle of this crime scene was “horrible, but I needed to be there, to touch what was inside the Bataclan, I said to myself if I do not see this, I will not be able to overcome this drama -the”.

At the Bataclan, Jean Reinhart recovered the lawyer’s robe that his nephew had left in the cloakroom. A few days later, he learned that an association of victims was going to be formed. Quite naturally, relatives of victims and survivors began to call him, the bereaved lawyer, like them.

“We speak the same language, I know their pain, I know what it’s like to go to IML, I’ve been there three times, I know what it’s like to kiss a 26 year old years old which is so cold because it was in the IML fridge”. He shows on a corner of his desk, a packet of paper handkerchiefs. “We used hundreds of them”for the hundred civil parties that he will accompany to this trial. He insisted on seeing each of the civil parties. The bereaved, and the injured. Jean Reinhart says the survivors are “all injured, physically or psychologically injured”. He notes “the Chernobyl side of November 13”with “all these civil parties who have died for five years, died of grief or who have caused cancer.” He gives the example of a mother who lost a son and then developed ovarian cancer. “You don’t need to be a great cleric to draw a parallel”analyzes Me Reinhart.

“He is always listening for us”, says a civil party

He encourages the 114 civil parties he accompanies to testify at the trial. “I want people to understand that there has been blood, tears, lives turned upside down”. Emmanuel Domenach, survivor of the Bataclan, was one of Me Reinhart’s first clients, as co-founder of the association 13onze 15 Fraternité-Vérité. The young man remembers that in the months following the attacks, “many lawyers wanted to take advantage of the situation in a shameless way, Jean, closely touched, was very fair and very present, and I am very grateful to him for having been so.” For more than five years, he has found that Me Reinhart has never failed, “always listening for us.”

Emmanuel Domenach concludes: “for all the victims of the attacks of November 13, Jean Reinhart is very precious and I know that we will be able to approach the trial calmly thanks to him”. During the nine months of trial, Me Jean Reinhart will therefore remain alongside dozens of victims, full of empathy and delicacy. He thinks himself “altruistic”. And there is one word that is particularly close to his heart in life is “dignity”. Every morning, when he gets up, he tells himself that he must be there to “dignity and repairing inequalities”.

All our articles on the trial of the attacks of November 13, 2015 can be found here.

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