The decision not to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the president of the Aix criminal court scandalizes Me Paul Sollacaro, who speaks of insulting the legal profession. And points the finger at supposed political calculations.
“I let it go in confidence. Convinced that I couldn’t be blamed. I was naive.” Master Paul Sollacaro does not hide his disappointment following the decision of Matignon not to sanction Marc Rivet, the magistrate who expelled him from a courtroom, last March.
But behind the disappointment, we quickly feel anger boiling. For the lawyer from the Nice bar, the way the whole affair has unfolded, until today, is scandalous. In substance as much as in form. And he doesn’t hesitate to talk about “conspiracy”.
Pass of arms
Quick return to the incident at the origin of the affair. We are on March 11, 2021, in the room of the Aix-en-Provence criminal court. On the program, a drug trafficking file. Me Paul Sollacaro requests the disjunction of the case of his client, sick with Covid. The president, Marc Rivet, strongly opposes it. The tone rises between the two men. So much so that the magistrate asks the police present to have the lawyer evacuated from the room, an extremely rare decision. The magistrate will then decide to judge the case without the defense lawyers, who came out of the courtroom in support of their colleague.
The case will cause a stir, well beyond the courthouse in Aix-en-Provence. The profession is mobilizing across the country. Jean Castex seizes the General Inspectorate of Justice.
On September 9, six months later, Matignon’s conclusions were finally made public…“After having taken cognizance of the entire file, the course of the facts and the behavior of all the protagonists, and taking into account the appeasement of the situation, the Prime Minister has decided not to take any disciplinary action”.
“I am appalled”comments Me Sollacaro. “It’s an insult to lawyers. A lack of consideration for the entire profession, a total regression of the rights of the defense”. For the Ajaccien lawyer, Jean Castex’s decision could set a precedent, with serious consequences.
“This decision now authorizes the use of force against a lawyer. They dreamed of it, Rivet did it… From today, a magistrate who does not appreciate what a lawyer says to him, or who does not like lawyers, as is the case for Monsieur Rivet, could have him expelled. And in the end, it’s the client, who needs to be defended, who will drink.”
They dreamed of it, Rivet did it.
But it is not just the substance of the decision that shocks the lawyer. The form leaves it doubtful to say the least. “I am surprised at the way the decision was disseminated. We had relaunched Matignon regularly, to find out where the file was. I myself had written to Jean Castex at the end of August, without response. And in the end, we learn the decision in the Official Journal. We are talking about a sensitive issue, which has aroused great emotion among lawyers and certain politicians! For me, Matignon wanted to pass this on the sly. And I can’t help but think see a form of contempt”.
The announcement of the decision raised many questions for Maître Sollacaro. Until Wednesday, September 15. For the lawyer, today’s news has shed a whole new light on the case. “This morning, andn reading the brief from BFM TV, I understood “… The site reveals that the magistrates’ unions, last spring, had requested two investigations into possible conflicts of interest on files in which the Keeper of the Seals would have intervened. And one of them is the Sollacaro file.
According to BFM, the magistrates’ unions saw in the seizure of the General Inspectorate of Justice “the signature of Eric Dupond-Moretti, a very close friend of Me Sollacaro”.
Jean Castex speaks of appeasement, but of appeasement between whom and whom?
Unquestionably, Eric Dupond-Moretti and Paul Sollacaro know each other. Questioned in the National Assembly the day after the Aix affair by the deputy of the Republicans, Antoine Savignat, on this subject, the Keeper of the Seals could not answer personally, arguing that he had been the lawyer “of one of the protagonists of the case”. But the lawyer does not take off. “He was appointed as my family’s lawyer, among others, in my father’s case [Me Antoine Sollacaro, assassiné le 16 octobre 2012 à Ajaccio – NDLR]. Some time before being appointed minister. That’s not being very close!”
But what annoys Master Sollacaro the most is never having heard of this complaint from the magistrates, when he was the first concerned. It is now certain, it is she who would explain the decision of Matignon not to sanction Marc Rivet. “In the brief from BFM, we also learn that on July 2, the Requests Commission of the Court of Justice of the Republic rejected the union’s request. A snub for the magistrates. So, to ease the climate, Castex has also rejected the complaint which concerned me!”
The lawyer is convinced of this, he was used as a simple pawn, sacrificed by Matignon to please the magistrates, while tensions with the government have been recurrent for many months: “In the decision made public concerning my file, Castex speaks “to appease the situation”. But of appeasement between whom and whom? If it’s between lawyers and magistrates, it’s nonsense! There are 60,000 lawyers who are outraged by this decision. If it is between the magistrates and the government, it is different. Anyway, that would explain a lot of things…“
Master Sollacaro is convinced of this. This decision, if Jean Castex does not back down, should lead to a real war between lawyers and magistrates in the coming months.
One thing is certain, the profession is likely not to remain silent in the face of Matignon’s decision. For the President of the National Bar Council, Jérôme Gavaudan, “recognizing and officially accepting that in France, a lawyer can be expelled manu militari from a courtroom is unacceptable and very worrying.” The CNB should communicate, officially, on Friday, at the end of its general assembly.
The first salvo of a new pass of arms?