An Indefensible Cause

Special Report: Conservative Movements
The Mobilization of French Appeals Court Attorneys in Response to Proposals to End Their Monopoly
By Nicolas Rafin

The mobilisation of French Appeal Court Attorneys followed the Attali and Darrois commissions in 2007, which were appointed to prepare the “modernisation” of the French legal institutions. This included proposals to cut their monopoly on the second instance jurisdictions, which would bring about the demise of their profession. In 2008, the Minister for Justice in the government of François Fillon announced a bill which endorsed this proposal, presenting it as “progressive” and in the interests of those subjected to legal proceedings. As for the previous laws targeting other ministerial officers, this bill did not excite a great deal of media and political attention. This is down to a certain political consensus between, on the one hand, left-wing parties which consider the access to this profession anti-democratic, due to its being very often inherited and conditioned by a system of limited numbers, and on the other hand, an entrepreneurial et economically liberal right-wing looking to open the market of legal cases to competition. The ministerial officers, however, have mobilised for almost two years in opposition to this bill. Their major claim is for the maintenance of their status of protectors separated from the more competitive spaces of the legal and judiciary services. Faced with a cause that seems to be ignored, this article aims to show the social and political conditions of the mobilisation initiated by the attorneys and to understand how the means of action used permitted, despite the ups and downs of the protest movement, to maintain the professional group and its mobilisation... at least until the Government’s decision to phase out the profession.

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