Provided for in article 64 of the constitution, the independence of judges is the guarantee of a fair trial, which requires them to apply the law without giving in to the risk of pleasing or displeasing (media, parties, judicial hierarchy, etc.).
To avoid any pressure, the magistrates of the seat are irremovable. We cannot change their position, nor remove an ongoing file from them without their consent. However, geographic mobility is recommended when a magistrate becomes too close to the personalities of his jurisdiction (mayors, prefect, president of associations linked to the legal world, journalists, etc.).
Although subject to their hierarchy, prosecutors have freedom of speech in court (Articles 5 of the 1958 ordinance and 33 of the code of criminal procedure). If instructions to prosecute were imposed on them by the Keeper of the Seals or the Attorney General, they may request that these instructions be written down and placed in the file.
No prejudices, cultural, social or religious should appear or guide the magistrates in the interpretation of the legal rules.
Magistrates can join a political party, a trade union, an association ... But they refrain from submitting to obligations likely to restrict their independence.
This principle is laid down in article 6-1 of the convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, its corollary is respect for the principle of adversarial proceedings.
Magistrates must take into account the opinions of all parties without any bias, which requires them not to let their convictions show through until the delivery of the decision and to address all parties with the same regard.
If a fact likely to undermine the impartiality of a magistrate ruling in collegiate (if he knows the litigant, or if he had difficulties with the defendant in another hearing ...), he must inform the others. magistrates and deport themselves, without waiting for the parties to challenge him.
The magistrates adopt a personal and professional behavior making them worthy of carrying out their missions. They take care to give a good image of justice by observing a general duty of reserve, vigilance and discretion.
Held at a duty of probity, they must behave in society and in their personal life with honor, delicacy while being prudent in the choice of their relationships.
Le duty of loyalty requires them to apply the guiding principles of trials and the rights of the defense loyally, without distorting the texts. The magistrates of the seat take care not to use abusive procedures tending to lengthen the procedures, and the magistrates of the public prosecutor's office inform their hierarchical superiors of the opening and the evolution of the investigations.
They must reject informal information and scrutinize the evidence rigorously.
They grant everyone equal treatment and refrain from any connivance with the parties, lawyers, experts, etc. Just as they must avoid any conflict of interest by entrusting expert missions to people who are close or too regularly appointed. .
Attention to others
Magistrates must show delicacy, listening and respect towards the litigant, the victims, the court officials (lawyers, etc.).
- Respect for the dignity of people
They refrain, orally or in writing, from vexatious, condescending, inappropriate or contemptuous remarks. The magistrates direct the debates and police the hearing. All parties must take turns speaking. It is their responsibility to ensure that the elementary rules of politeness are respected between the parties and the public present at the hearing, which cannot degenerate into a spectacle. If discriminatory comments are made at the hearing, they should ensure that they are recorded in the hearing notes.
- Respect for the other
This entails the obligation to render decisions on time, to respect hearing schedules, and to honor all appointments. In collegial hearing, each magistrate has one vote and complies with the majority. The secrecy of the deliberation renders the decision anonymous and prevents any individual prosecution.
- Listening to the other
It involves the ability to question yourself and accept being criticized. The magistrate must express himself intelligibly to all his interlocutors, whatever their culture or social level. He has a general duty of explanation which he exercises with tact and humility. To this end, he adopts a listening position without showing signs of impatience. He should remain neutral and not show signs of sympathy or dislike.
Discretion and reserve
Magistrates must preserve the image of justice by watching over their individual behavior and in their public expression. Article 10 paragraph 2 of the 1958 ordinance prohibits any magistrate from showing hostility towards the government. But they can express themselves freely within the union framework.
Magistrates cannot comment on their own decisions. They do not communicate directly on a case for which they are responsible and do not criticize the decisions made by their colleagues.
They do not divulge any information even in an anecdotal manner, do not seek to attract interest in their persons and respect the confidentiality of debates and proceedings.
The prosecuting magistrate empowered for this purpose can make public the elements of an ongoing investigation (Article 11 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).
If a magistrate is unfairly questioned, his hierarchy can intervene by using institutional communication tools.
The magistrate's mission is to apply the law on behalf of the French people. The law is binding on magistrates (rules of law applicable in France and international standards) and it is up to them to state the law. They can neither take the place of the legislator, nor refuse to apply the law.
The magistrate is the guardian of individual freedoms (article 66 of the Constitution). This requires a duty of control and vigilance in the field of police custody, detention and compulsory hospitalization.
Judges must keep their knowledge of the law up to date. The heads of court ensure the dissemination of new legislation, developments in case law, etc.
Magistrates are bound by an obligation of diligence and must deal without delay with the cases referred to them (examination and drafting of decisions)
To find out more, you can consult the website of the Superior Council of Magistrates, which publishes a collection of ethical rules for judges.
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