Dupond-Moretti trial: the Minister of Justice declares that he wants to defend himself against “infamy”

A first under the Fifth Republic: a serving minister tried before the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR)

Dupond-Moretti trial: the Minister of Justice declares that he wants to defend himself against “infamy”

A first under the Fifth Republic: a serving minister tried before the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR). From Monday 6, and until November 16, the Minister of Justice, Eric Dupond-Moretti, is being questioned for illegal taking of interests within the framework of his functions.

The hearing before the CJR, the only authority authorized to judge members of the government for acts committed in the exercise of their functions, opened around 2 p.m. at the Paris courthouse.

When he first spoke, the Minister of Justice described his trial as “infamy” for him and for his “relatives”. “Until these last hours, I did not defend myself,” he declared at the bar, “basically so as not to have my ministry and my action tarnished. (...) I intend to defend myself with dignity, completely, but I intend to defend myself firmly. »

"Mr. President, this trial in my eyes is first and foremost a trial of illegitimacy," also said the former star of the bar, recalling that the magistrates' unions, at the origin of the complaint filed against him, had qualified his appointment at Place Vendôme to everyone’s surprise in July 2020 as a “declaration of war”. “I was a lawyer for thirty-six years, some lawyers criticized me for no longer being one, certain magistrates for having been one,” he also said.

During the hearing, he will remain a minister, but measures will be taken "to ensure the proper functioning of public authorities and the continuity of the State", such as signing delegations, an excused absence from the council of ministers or even his replacement on the government bench in Parliament, a government source told Agence France-Presse.

“As Keeper of the Seals, Eric Dupond-Moretti has my full confidence,” declared Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on France Inter on Monday, November 6, praising his “excellent work” and his “right to the presumption of innocence ".

In addition to this support, the head of government specified that she had hoped that he would remain in office and “be able to both ensure his defense and (…) that the Ministry of Justice could function”. “He will have to have the necessary time to defend himself,” explained Ms. Borne on Friday.

Eric Dupond-Moretti faces five years of imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 euros

Asked, at the beginning of October, about a possible resignation of the Keeper of the Seals in the event of conviction, Ms. Borne replied that there was a “clear rule”, already “applied” to other ministers, in reference to Alain Griset – who had had to leave the government in December 2021. But the oppositions deplore this unprecedented situation of a minister of justice judged in the exercise of his functions by magistrates and parliamentarians. The court is made up of three magistrates from the Court of Cassation and twelve parliamentarians.

He is the minister of “supervision of magistrates”, the “minister of a part of the deputies who will judge him” and the attorney general “who will bring proceedings against him owes his entire career to Macronie”, argued on Sunday , on Radio J, the first secretary of the Socialist Party, Olivier Faure, fearing a “largely truncated” trial. “During the day, [he will] be judged and then he returns to his office in the evening to deal with justice matters (…), that leaves suspicion,” lamented Sébastien Chenu, deputy (National Rally) of the North.

If found guilty of illegal taking of interests, the Minister of Justice faces up to five years of imprisonment, a fine of 500,000 euros, as well as an additional penalty of ineligibility and ban on practicing a public function. The former criminal lawyer says he is “innocent” and repeats that he only followed “the recommendations” of his ministry by launching administrative investigations against four magistrates with whom he had disagreements when he was a lawyer.

Jean Castex and Nicole Belloubet called to the stand as witnesses

This file began at the end of June 2020, on the sidelines of the so-called “Paul Bismuth” affair targeting former president Nicolas Sarkozy, when Le Point revealed that the National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF) had the telephone bills of several lawyers examined. , including Mr. Dupond-Moretti, to flush out a possible mole who would have informed Mr. Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, that they were being tapped.

Mr. Dupond-Moretti, a very close friend of Mr. Herzog, then denounced a “barbouzard investigation”. “We have slipped into the Republic of Judges,” protested the man who was then one of the country’s most publicized lawyers, before filing a complaint.

The then Minister of Justice, Nicole Belloubet, had requested an “operational inspection”. Having become a minister, Mr. Dupond-Moretti ordered an administrative investigation against two magistrates and the national financial prosecutor, Eliane Houlette, to determine possible individual faults.

He had also opened, in another case, an administrative investigation against a former judge seconded to Monaco whose “cowboy” methods he had denounced as a lawyer and against whom he had filed a complaint on behalf of a client for violation of the secrecy of the investigation.

During the investigation, Mr. Dupond-Moretti, who has always maintained tense relations with the magistrates, denounced a “biased” instruction aimed at “sullying the reputation of a former lawyer” and fueling his trial into “illegitimacy to occupy the functions of Keeper of the Seals”. Around twenty witnesses will take the stand at the trial, including former Prime Minister Jean Castex and Ms. Belloubet.

The four magistrates targeted – and cleared after their disciplinary proceedings – will also be called to testify, trade unionists at the origin of the complaints against the minister and the former attorney general at the Court of Cassation François Molins.