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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-08-11 04:50 PM
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French Judges Strike to Stop Sarkozy's Meddling
Source: Time

French Judges Strike to Stop Sarkozy's Meddling
By Bruce Crumley / Paris Tuesday, Feb. 08, 2011

French investigative magistrates independent legal sleuths who lead inquiries into suspected wrongdoing in sensitive cases of state security, finance and politics that sitting judges later preside over in court have long been a favored enemy and scapegoat of the nation's politicians on both the left and the right. But now the judicial officials are mounting a major push-back against what they decry as efforts by the government to meddle in France's legal system. And in an unprecedented display of unity, they're being joined by other equally outraged members of the country's judicial and law-enforcement system.

Courthouses in some 20 French cities started the week closed to all but the most urgent cases, while 150 of France's 200 major tribunals prepare to join the growing protest movement of investigating and sitting judges, prosecutors, bailiffs, court recorders, and police officers. The action, which is building up to a nationwide strike of justice employees on Feb. 10, is in response to criticisms that French President Nicolas Sarkozy leveled at the justice system last week, when he lamented its "serious dysfunctions" and pledged to punish judicial officials who are found to have been negligent or erroneous in their decisions.

Sarkozy's comments were sparked by the gruesome murder of an 18-year-old woman whose accused killer is a multi-recidivist criminal with 15 convictions to his name for a variety of often-violent offenses. After his release from prison and parole late last year, terrified members of his family alerted police of their fears that he was unstable and a threat. "When you let an individual like that out of prison without making sure that he will be followed by a parole officer, the judiciary is at fault," Sarkozy said on Feb. 3, two days after parts of the victim's body were found in a pond. "When errors lead to this sort of outcome, our fellow citizens won't understand if there aren't sanctions. We'll do what's necessary to be sure responsibilities are assumed, and decisions taken."

Members of Sarkozy's rightist government have joined in on the finger wagging and on Feb. 7 reacted indignantly to the magistrates' protest, calling it unjustified and irresponsible. Also like their President, they have pledged to punish justice officials whose negligence is found to have resulted in the alleged murderer's freedom a curiously confident promise, detractors say, considering that investigations into the case have only just begun.

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