It is a bitter-tasting anniversary that the magistrates are about to celebrate. A year ago, a column published in The world, bringing to light an increasingly palpable malaise within this ordinarily silent body, created an earthquake in the hushed world of justice. Magistrates and clerks then took the floor to talk about the extended hours, the holidays eaten away by the files, the feeling of loss of meaning… Unprecedented fact: a strike, followed by several hundred professionals, had been organized. 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 all identified with her, we leave our health in this job,” breathes Aurélie, parquet worker in the southwest. A year after the forum, all the magistrates we interviewed are unanimous: nothing has really changed. They, in any case, affirm that within their jurisdiction, whether small or large, in Ile-de-France or in the provinces, the problems have persisted, starting with the lack of personnel. In the east, for example, a head of jurisdiction who considers himself “well off” says that one of the posts created a year and a half ago has never been filled. As for the two children’s judges of his court, they share 1,200 educational assistance files. In Nanterre, in the service of Marie Truchet, there were, before her death, only eight judges out of the ten planned. “We have already been told that we will not have reinforcements before Christmas”, breathes the colleague of the magistrate, Dominique Marcilhacy, vice-president of the court and union representative at the USM.
Massive recruitment but below needs
At the Ministry of Justice, it is nevertheless recalled that during the first five-year term, 700 magistrates and 850 clerks were recruited, to which are added 2,000 contract positions. Staff that should grow further under this mandate, since the Chancellery ensures that 1,500 magistrates and 1,500 additional clerks will be assigned by 2027. we place Vendôme. Under Nicolas Sarkozy, one magistrate in two who retired was not replaced: under Christiane Taubira, there were only 50 additional hires. “Above all, we highlight the “historic” increase in the Justice budget under the mandate of Eric Dupond-Moretti: three times 8%, for 2021, 2022 and 2023.
“We are starting from so far that it is a drop in the bucket, insists the magistrate from the south-west. According to the European standard, in my parquet, for example, one should be 43. We are 6. 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. Admittedly, the study specifies that it does not take into account non-professional judges – in particular those of the Labor Courts – but how not to link it with the growing stock of cases or the extended deadlines? The heads of jurisdictions have estimated the number of positions to be created at almost 5,000. “ When I’m on duty for seven days, waking up once or even several times a night, I’m in such a state of exhaustion that it shows in my work”, continues Aurélie.
“It’s been a year since I had to have my teeth operated on”
In Nanterre, the magistrates estimate that there is a shortage of 60 magistrates and 250 clerks to “run” the court. Far, therefore, from what the Chancellery is planning. “On the day of his death, Marie (Truchet) was not in good shape at all, remembers Dominique Marcilhacy. She should never have come but she told herself that if she stopped, her work would fall on the others. “If the first elements of the autopsy seem to attribute her death to several pathologies unrelated to “fatigue” or “stress”, the 44-year-old magistrate was portrayed by her colleagues as being particularly involved, not counting her hours, working on weekends, on public holidays or during his vacation. And Dominique Marcilhacy to insist: “You cannot imagine the number of magistrates who come to work with 39 fever, on the verge of discomfort”.
“We don’t have the time, mentally, to sit down to take care of ourselves”, abounds Jean, magistrate of the seat in the west of France. In her court, a magistrate suffered a burnout of such intensity that she suffered from neurological consequences. He himself confides to avoid at all costs going to the doctor for fear that the latter will give him sick leave. In thirteen years of career, he was arrested only three times. Stopped, but not inactive. Thus, his first instinct after a broken foot was to send his wife to retrieve files to advance the drafting of his judgments. “There, for example, I have had to have my teeth operated on for a year but I don’t have time to take care of it. »
“We would like to do Dior, but we have to do Tati”
If all the magistrates do not say they are suffering, many of them wonder about the meaning of their work. How do you make decisions that have a major impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people when you feel like you are working “on the line”? “We harden, we have no choice,” said Dominique Marcilhacy. She chairs the hearing devoted 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, there are people who cry. It’s terrible but I can’t help it. Jean, he remembers the time when he was a family court judge and had only a few minutes to calculate the amount of child support. “We would like to do Dior, but we have to do Tati”, summarizes Dominique Marcilhacy.
The fact remains that resignations are extremely rare: in 2021, according to figures from the ministry, only six departures were recorded, including four at the end of a ten-year secondment. And if the figures for this year are not yet “consolidated”, the Chancellery ensures that the balance sheet will be substantially the same. “We absolutely did not see any burst of resignations in connection with this mobilization”, we insist. “Obviously I’ve already thought about it, but to do what? I don’t really know in what area my skills could be used, ”says Jean. Same feeling with this parquet worker from the south-west: “I would sometimes like to have a way out but I don’t see it”.