Increase in resources, overhaul of criminal procedure, new court of economic activities… The Keeper of the Seals presents, this Wednesday, May 3, in the Council of Ministers two legislative texts supposed to translate into law his action plan for justice. “We started from a double observation. The first is that justice has experienced thirty years of budgetary and human neglect. The second is that the French tell us that justice is too slow and too complex “, explains Éric Dupond-Moretti in the daily 20 minutes, this Wednesday. Its objective being to see a “closer” and “more protective” justice. According to the Minister of Justice, all the texts, legislative and regulatory, will be ready before the summer.
Human and budgetary resources
The orientation and programming bill for justice aims to increase the ministry’s budget from 9.6 billion euros in 2023 to nearly 11 billion within four years. It also endorses the hiring of 10,000 people, including 1,500 magistrates and 1,500 clerks, by 2027. “At the end of Emmanuel Macron’s second five-year term, the justice budget will have increased by 60%”, he says in 20 minutes.
Overhaul of criminal procedure
The government wants to seek the authorization to rewrite by order the code of criminal procedure in order to “clarify” its drafting. This code has grown from 800 to more than 2,400 articles since it came into force in 1959. However, this will have to await the end of the work of the committee of experts in charge of this project, launched in January and expected to last at least a year and a half.
The reform already provides for the “simplification” of certain rules of procedure: extended night searches in criminal matters, new rights for people placed under the intermediate status of assisted witness, videoconferencing for the assistance of an interpreter or the medical examination of a detainee, placement on remote tapping in the context of judicial investigations.
15,000 additional prison places
The bill provides for the construction of 15,000 additional prison places. “Ten new prison establishments will open their doors by the end of the year. Half will be operational in 2024”, adds the Minister of Justice. The text also provides for the wearing of a camera by the agents of the penitentiary administration.
The liberty and custody judge, whose volume of cases handled has continued to grow since 2000, will be able to refocus solely on criminal matters. At the discretion of the courts, the president of the court may decide to transfer his civil powers – keeping foreigners in an irregular situation in administrative detention, forced hospitalizations – to another judge of the judicial court.
Experimentation of an “economic activities court”
Eric Dupond-Moretti wants to experiment, in nine to twelve jurisdictions and for four years, the “economic activities courts”, with expanded powers compared to the commercial courts, and intended in particular for farmers and certain liberal professions. A “contribution for economic justice” will be set up in these new courts in order to encourage recourse to an amicable settlement of the dispute.
The Chancellery is counting on a “zero paper” objective by the end of Macron’s second five-year term through a full dematerialization plan, both in the ministry and in the courts.
To enhance its attractiveness, access routes to the judiciary will be reformed and opened up to new profiles. Temporary judges will be able to practice without minimum age limit and for longer and their competence will be extended to presiding over a friendly settlement hearing. The minister also says he wanted to take social measures. “To reward the magistrates for their total investment, I decided on a salary increase of around 1,000 euros. They had not been upgraded since 1996. I also increased the clerks by 12%”, adds- he.
The reform also provides for the creation of a new function, that of “justice attachés”, to help magistrates in their tasks. Civil servants or contract workers, they will replace the current “assistant lawyers”, with a more precarious status and without initial training. In the penitentiary, contract agents can be recruited, without the compulsory baccalaureate, to “assist” the supervisors and thus alleviate the recruitment crisis.
Liability of magistrates
A measure of the draft organic law consists in making more flexible the direct referral to the Superior Council of the Judiciary by litigants who believe that the behavior of a magistrate in the course of their procedure may be a disciplinary fault. The conditions for the admissibility of complaints will be simplified and the committee for the admission of requests will be able to directly request the General Inspectorate of Justice to initiate an administrative inquiry.