After a legislative epic and a lot of turmoil within the profession, the Keeper of the Seals tabled a final amendment to put an end to the debate.
Saved in spite of themselves. In extremis, the Keeper of the Seals Éric Dupond-Moretti reviewed and corrected Article 3 of the Law of Confidence in Justice which sets in stone the code of criminal procedure the professional secrecy of lawyers. It will now concern both the defense of clients and the advice of lawyers, with the exception for the latter of the offenses of corruption, terrorist financing, tax evasion and money laundering of these three offences. The new version of the text also affirms the presence of the chairman during searches of law firms.
This final version of a text which created a stir within the profession owes a great deal to the tenacity of the Keeper of the Seals, who always swore that he would protect the secrecy of lawyers, and to the will of Yaël Braun-Pivet and of François-Noël Buffet, respectively president of the law commission of the National Assembly and president of the law commission of the Senate. Both have put aside their political antagonisms and their susceptibility to try to reach, with the chancellery, a compromise text which they consider to be more protective of professional secrecy than positive law and case law.
The case had turned into a psychodrama within the profession in recent weeks, to the point of triggering small demonstrations this morning by angry lawyers, in particular under the gates of the National Assembly. “What is certain is that when we mobilize, we make things evolve“, pleads Olivier Cousi, president of Paris. In fact, rendered ambiguous by the wording that came out of the mixed joint committee on October 21, the text suggested that the President of the Bar would no longer be present during the searches of lawyers, and let it be understood that during the latter, the lawyer could not no longer oppose professional secrecy when it has “ is the subject of maneuvers or actions for the purpose of allowing, in an unintentional way, the commission or the continuation or the dissimulation of an offense “. An unbearable presumption of guilt for lawyers.
From October 23, the Keeper of the Seals had wanted to reassure his former colleagues. In order to erase the dangers of this drafting, he had promised them, a rare procedure, to table a final precision government amendment during the final vote on the law. In this case this evening in the National Assembly, and Thursday in the same terms in the Senate. The new amendment purely and simply deletes the paragraph on the unintentional concealment of an offense, and reaffirms on the other hand the presence of the President of the Bar during any search.
A united profession?
Will this be enough to reassure the lawyers? The profession tore itself apart for three good weeks, within the Conseil national des barreaux, with the strange effect of seeing far-left lawyers’ unions join the positions of the great Parisian business bar, which would have liked the attorney’s secrecy allows no exception. This position would have had difficulty passing the caudine forks of the Constitutional Council. On Monday, this holy alliance resulted in a vote of the profession which purely and simply demanded the deletion of the article and the return to the situation ante. Parliament and the government, which has the final say, have chosen to ignore it.