“At times, we are dented”, in the mind of a criminal lawyer

EShe is a lawyer to the end of the epitoge, defends the “victims” with the same conviction as the “perpetrators” and avoids any activism. On the contrary, Sophie Obadia, from the top of her 25 years of practice in criminal law, is worried about the “new feminist justice” which is reflected in the distorting mirrors of the #MeToo movement. In the media or in private, she regularly points out the perverse effects. About the rapes and sexual assaults on 17-year-old minors of which the singer Jean-Luc Lahaye is suspected, she questions: “The law fixes the rule of the criminal majority, but is it up to the judge to define the sexual norm? »

In a column co-signed with the philosopher and psychoanalyst Sabine Prokhoris, published in Marianne in December 2021, she points out, with regard to attacks against women, the dangers of the “militant lexicon” which invades the public space: “predator”, “feminicide”, “systemic violence”, “patriarchy”, “trauma”, “grip”, “stunned”…

Misused Words and Reason of Law

Some terms are even diverted from their meaning and ignore the evidence which is at the heart of the legal debate, deplores Mand Obadiah. “For example, sexual harassment has a very precise legal meaning, it involves the repetition of acts tending to obtain a sexual favour, it is therefore not equivalent to the insistence of a clumsy. The lawyer, who, however, assists abused women, such as the Canadian tourist raped by two police officers, in April 2014, in the historic premises of 36 quai des Orfèvres (subject to confirmation on appeal of the conviction of the authors to seven years in prison), no longer tolerates “the continuum assumption” between sexist behavior and sexual violence.

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When the weight of words prevails over the reason of the law, its logic and its classifications, the democratic edifice is shaken, for lack of equality of arms. “With #MeToo and the freedom of speech, everything is worth, the authentic aggression as the nasty rumors”, is indignant Mand Obadia, who sometimes has the feeling of fighting against windmills. The firm that she has shared since 2012 with her husband and partner Mario Stasi measures the psychological damage of media lynching on a daily basis. “I meet distraught, downgraded men, men condemned to social death. One of his clients, a theater director, even had to give up his job even though the complaint against him was dismissed.

Judicial delay has become a scourge.

That’s what it’s all about: the judiciary cannot compete with the heavy artillery of social networks. This is what she explains, on this gloomy January afternoon, to her client accused of sexual harassment: “Lots of often anonymous allegations are stirred up in journalistic investigations. Faced with this myriad of rumours, we have limited means of defence. It is time for the legislator to take up this deleterious development! Indeed, she explains to him, neither the defamation procedure, nor the attack on the presumption of innocence, nor the slanderous denunciation are sufficiently effective to fight against lynching in the public square. The defamation action she is going to take on his behalf is the only possible way to “repair the dishonor” he is suffering. But this very demanding procedure is not a panacea. “The chamber specializing in defamation cases is always bottled up and judicial slowness has become a scourge. If justice becomes the sounding board for societal debate, we are preparing for very violent justice. »

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His client nevertheless keeps a cool head. “If justice is not a bulwark against the law of the jungle, what is it for? I made the choice with you from the start to play the legal card instead of responding through the media. I do not fear justice, I want it, ”he claims. Mand Obadia nevertheless warns him: “The plaintiffs’ strategy will be to drown the debate in ambient imputations. “Not enough to discourage the lawyer from distinguished intelligence. “I will do everything to ensure that the law regains its place,” she promises. A requirement that she would like to share more with the magistrates. But this dialogue, which used to be so natural, has frayed. “. Fifteen years ago, I went to see the judge around 1:30 p.m., we discussed in confidence the progress of the case. Since then, we have created the financial center, then the anti-terrorism center, where the judges are almost invisible, and today, in this new anxiety-provoking courthouse, we make an appointment by email and, sometimes, we wait a long time for the answer. . And it is often negative. We lawyers are in mourning for these relationships,” she laments.


Luckily, Sophie Obadia has a tenacious fighting spirit, a quality she has cultivated since childhood. “I was a class delegate like almost all criminal lawyers. This strength of character sprinkled with grace, she inherits it as much from her mother, a historian, as from her father, a linguist, both belonging to the National Education. Parents “iconoclasts, versed in the contemporary art of the 1970s”, she smiles. She too is keen on culture. She started her professional life as a freelance journalist at Literary Figaro, which gave him a taste for investigation and precision of the verb. His other passion is the theatre, on stage as well as in the hall. But she admits it: the courtroom, where the destiny of a life is played out, exerts much stronger pressure on you than the theatrical stage. “In the theater, we are free. When you plead, you have your client behind you. A constraint that she transforms into strength, carried by the “adrenaline” of the battle to be fought against the opposing certainties that she is working to demolish. The fluidity of his eloquence, subtle, characterized by a sense of detail, far from a brutal and Manichean defense, is admired by his collaborator Joachim Bokobsa. “Sophie does not seek to be miserable or showy, but to make people think and gain height. She has a great empathy towards the client and always manages to find the angle that both will serve him and will be understood by the magistrates. »

Forensic truth often changes sides.

The intricacies of criminal procedure, “very rich intellectually”, Sophie Obadia acquired and experienced them with the tenor Hervé Temime. He will agree to defend with her the former soldier with the chaotic course Marc Petaux, a real marathon at the end of which the accused, sentenced to twenty years of criminal imprisonment for the murder of a policewoman, will finally be acquitted on appeal. “This case taught me a lot, I understood what it meant [le fait de] to fight. But not for just anyone. Terrorists and pimps will never cross the door of his office, assures the bubbly fifties. What motivates her, beyond the “romantic” dimension of the files that make her travel in people’s lives, are human passions such as love, jealousy or envy. “Criminal law is also a law of the margins, we come across people with unusual psychological springs,” she adds.

What carries her, too, in this profession which confronts her daily with the violence of society where the absurd competes with injustice, is doubt. “Forensic truth often changes sides. At a time when justice is suffering from embolism, this mother of two young girls has never felt so essential and in tune with the “shield function” of her profession. “The status of accused is overwhelming. Many let themselves be locked in because they don’t have the semantic tools to defend themselves,” she observes. She is also keen, with each new file, to forge a reciprocal listening relationship between his client and the judicial institution. “Often, the new client says to me on arrival “Hello Master” and, at the end of the appointment, “Goodbye Doctor”! she smiles. But she admits it: “At times, we are dented…” Her remedy for resurfacing? “When it’s too hard, I buy shoes! »

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