It is an anniversary with a bitter taste that the magistrates are about to celebrate. A year ago, a column published on The world, bringing to light an increasingly palpable malaise within this ordinarily silent body, he has created an earthquake in the silent world of justice. Magistrates and clerks then take the floor to talk about the extended hours, the holidays devoured by paperwork, the feeling of loss of meaning… An unprecedented fact: a strike had been organized, followed by several hundred professionals. If the movement was born in reaction to the suicide of a young judge, the new day of mobilization organized this Tuesday is marked by the death last month, in full hearing, of Marie Truchet, vice president of the court of Nanterre, in the Hauts-de-Seine .
“Obviously, we have all identified with her, we leave our health in this work,” breathes Aurélie, a parquet worker in the South West. One year after the forum, all the magistrates we interviewed are unanimous: nothing really has changed. In any case, they say that within their jurisdiction, whether large or small, in Ile-de-France or in the provinces, problems remain, starting with the lack of personnel. In the east, for example, a head of the jurisdiction who considers himself “wealthy” says that one of the posts created a year and a half ago has never been filled. As for his court’s two juvenile judges, they share 1,200 educational assistance files. In Nanterre, in Marie Truchet’s service, there were, before her death, only eight judges out of the ten expected. “We have already been told that we will not have reinforcements before Christmas,” whispers the magistrate’s colleague, Dominique Marcilhacy, vice president of the court and union representative at the USM.
Massive recruitment but below needs
However, the Ministry of Justice is reminded that 700 magistrates and 850 office workers were hired in the first five years, in addition to 2,000 contract positions. Personnel that should grow further within the scope of this mandate, given that the Chancellery ensures that by 2027 1,500 magistrates and 1,500 more employees will be assigned. Under Nicolas Sarkozy, one out of two retired magistrates was not replaced: under Christiane Taubira, there were only 50 more hires. “Above all, we point out the “historic” increase in the Justice budget under the mandate of Eric Dupond-Moretti: three times 8%, for 2021, 2022 and 2023.
“We start from so far away that it is a drop in the ocean, insists the southwest magistrate. According to the European standard, in my parquet, for example, it should be 43 years old. We are 6 years old. According to the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (Cepej)*, Europe has an average of 17.6 judges per 100,000 inhabitants… compared to 11.2 in France. Of course, the study specifies that it does not take into account non-professional judges – in particular those of the Labor Courts – but how can we not link it to the growing stock of cases or to extended deadlines? Heads of jurisdictions have estimated the number of positions to be created at nearly 5,000. “ When I’m on duty for seven days, waking up one or more times a night, I’m in a state of exhaustion that shows in my work,” Aurélie continues.
“It’s been a year since I had to have my teeth operated on”
In Nanterre, magistrates estimate that there are a shortage of 60 magistrates and 250 clerks to “run” the court. Far, therefore, from what the Chancellery is planning. “The day of her death, Marie (Truchet) he wasn’t fit at all, recalls Dominique Marcilhacy. She should never have come but told herself that if she stopped her work would fall on others. “If the first elements of the autopsy seem to attribute her death to various pathologies unrelated to “fatigue” or “stress”, the 44-year-old magistrate was described by her colleagues as particularly involved, not counting her hours, weekends, in public holidays or during your holidays. And Dominique Marcilhacy insists: “You can’t imagine the number of magistrates who come to work with 39 fever, on the verge of discomfort”.
“We don’t have time, mentally, to sit down to take care of ourselves,” abounds Jean, a magistrate at the seat in western France. In his court, a magistrate suffered a breakdown of such intensity that he suffered from neurological consequences. He himself confides that he will avoid going to the doctor at all costs for fear that the latter will give him sick leave. In his thirteen-year career, he has only been arrested three times. Stationary, but not idle. So, his first instinct after a broken foot was to send his wife to retrieve the files to advance the drafting of his sentences. “There, for example, I have had my teeth operated on for a year but I don’t have time to do it. »
“We would like to do Dior, but we have to do Tati”
If all the magistrates don’t say they suffer, many of them wonder about the meaning of their actions. How do you make decisions that impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of people when you feel like you’re working “on line”? “We harden ourselves, we have no choice,” said Dominique Marcilhacy. He chairs the hearing dedicated to domestic violence in Nanterre. “I am systematically obliged to send back a third of the files, often to the following year. When this is announced, people cry. It’s awful but I can’t help it. Jean, remembers the time when he was a family court judge and only had a few minutes to calculate the amount of child support. “We’d like to do Dior, but we have to do Tati,” sums up Dominique Marcilhacy.
The fact remains that resignations are extremely rare: in 2021, according to ministry data, there were only six departures, four of which at the end of a ten-year secondment. And if this year’s data are not yet “consolidated”, the Chancellery assures that the budget will be substantially the same. “We have seen absolutely no flurry of resignations in connection with this mobilization,” we insist. “Obviously I’ve already thought about it, but to do what? I really don’t know in which area my skills could be used, ”says Jean. Same feeling with this parquet installer from the Southwest: “Sometimes I wish I had a way out but I don’t see it.”