Alain Jocard Agence France-Presse If he had been found guilty, Éric Dupond-Moretti, who has continued to proclaim his innocence in this affair, would have been forced to resign, his lawyers argued. He is seen here Wednesday, leaving the court after the verdict.
After an unprecedented trial in France, the Minister of Justice, Éric Dupond-Moretti, was acquitted on Wednesday in a conflict of interest case by the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR), a decision which clarifies his political horizon.
The judges of the CJR, the only court that can judge acts committed by a member of the government, declared the former star of the bar “not guilty”, rejecting the prosecution's requests for a conviction , which would have led to his departure from office.
“The Minister of Justice will be able to continue to carry out his action within the government team, in the service of the French. I am delighted,” Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne reacted on X (ex-Twitter).
“This is what the law dictates. It’s obviously a satisfaction, an enormous emotion,” declared Jacqueline Laffont in defense of the Minister.
The prosecution demanded a one-year suspended prison sentence for the minister, suspected of having taken advantage of his position to settle scores with four magistrates with whom he had had disagreements when he was a lawyer.
“The public prosecutor is studying the decision in detail to decide whether a cassation appeal will be filed,” indicated a source close to the case.
The Court considered that the minister had not “ sufficient awareness” to “expose” oneself to the commission of the offense. “At no time” did he “express […] animosity, contempt or a desire for revenge” towards the four magistrates, declared the president of the CJR, Dominique Pauthe.
Appointed to the government to everyone's surprise in the summer of 2020, the 62-year-old ex-criminal lawyer, an eruptive and divisive personality, has always proclaimed his innocence in this affair triggered by an unprecedented complaint from magistrates' unions at the end of this same year.
Resignation in the balance
During the trial, the first in France of a serving Minister of Justice, his lawyers insisted that he was “not guilty of anything”, maintaining that a conviction, even “the lowest”, would result in his ” resignation.”
The Insoumis deputies, of the radical left opposition, called for the suppression of the CJR – made up of three professional magistrates and 12 parliamentarians from all sides -, long accused of showing clemency towards the political leaders she judged.
The French President, Emmanuel Macron, has always maintained his confidence in his minister, whom he received after the announcement of the acquittal, despite the excitement caused by this affair in the judiciary.
In in this case as in others, the head of state refused to apply an unwritten rule long observed in France according to which an accused minister had to leave office.
In 2021, this Thus, after his six-month suspended prison sentence, the Minister for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, Alain Griset, had to resign.
Invoking a “clear rule”, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne ruled out the continuation of the Minister of Justice in office in the event of conviction.
Heavyweight of the government, on the front line against the far right, Mr. Dupond-Moretti obtained unprecedented increases in the Justice budget, afflicted in France with chronic underfunding.
Another member of the government, the Minister of Labor, Olivier Dussopt, is currently on trial in Paris for a case of favoritism dating back to his mandate as mayor. The prosecution on Wednesday requested a 10-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 15,000 euros against him.
The Dupond-Moretti affair began at the end of June 2020, on the sidelines of a corruption case targeting former President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The weekly Le Pointrevealed that magistrates from the National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF) examined detailed telephone bills from several lawyers, including Éric Dupond-Moretti, to uncover a possible mole who would have informed Mr. Sarkozy that he was being tapped.
Éric Dupond-Moretti, then one of the best-known lawyers in France, denounced a “barbouzard investigation”.
Once in government, he ordered an administrative investigation against three PNF magistrates after receiving a report commissioned by his predecessor.
In another case, he decided to open an investigation against a fourth magistrate, Edouard Levrault, a former judge seconded to Monaco whom he had denounced as as a lawyer the “cowboy” methods and against whom he had filed a complaint on behalf of a client for violation of the secrecy of the investigation.
The minister, “who knew better than anyone the conflicts of interest that he could have with the magistrates concerned”, should have refrained from being a “decision-maker”, concluded the investigation.
“I did what no matter what Minister of Justice would have done in my place,” defended the minister, who refuted any idea of “revenge.”