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Magistrates 'Wall of Jerks' mocking French right sparks outrage

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-04-25

The discovery of a "Wall of Jerks" in the Paris office of the Magistrates Union, on which is pinned photos of various right-leaning public figures, has aroused the indignation of the political class.

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, economist Jacques Attali, and a slew of other right-wing politicians, intellectuals and journalists have became France’s latest pin-ups – and they’re none too happy.

To wit, each has been featured on the "Wall of Jerks," a homemade pin-up board inside France’s Magistrates Union (SM). Some have even been renamed with new monikers that are less than affectionate. Former Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux (UMP), depicted sporting a far right National Front sticker, is "The Man of Vichy," while the magistrate Philippe Courroye is "Gravedigger 92".

Not without a sense of irony, among the photos pasted higgledy-piggledy, is a reminder to the unionists: "Before adding a jerk, make sure he is not already there."

The existence of the wall came to light on Tuesday after the right-leaning news website Atlantico aired a video of the Wall filmed with a hidden camera, quickly sparking protests.

UMP leader Copé calls for an investigation

The president of the right-wing Union of the Popular Movement (UMP), Jean-Francois Copé, has asked the minister of justice to "conduct an investigation." 

"It is outrageous, it is an absolute scandal, we are all shocked to learn that we were, among almost all figures from the political right, as well as journalists of a similar persuasion, on a wall on which our photos appeared with insults from a large union of the judiciary," he said.

When it was pointed out that it was only a local-level union, Jean-Francois Copé argued that the "union of the judiciary [was] not a union like the others, it is a union of magistrates," before stressing that the SM had shown "political involvement" that included "extremely serious personal attacks."

Attempting to put the wall into context, SM president Françoise Martens told French news agency AFP: "This wall was created a while ago, in the Sarkozy era when judges were attacked from all sides."

"These photos were taken without our knowledge in a private place, our local union, which is not accessible to the public," she added, describing the wall as "stress relief" and "sophomoric."

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira responded to outrage over the “Wall of Jerks” on Thursday, announcing that she had gone to the country’s highest legal body, the Supreme Judicial Council, for advice on the issue.

“I find this act unacceptable, and I might add unbearable. It is stupid and unhealthy,” Taubira said. “I have gone to the Supreme Judicial Council to ask if it constitutes a breach of ethics.”

‘An insult, a threat, and a violation of the magistrates’ oath’

After news of the “Wall of Jerks” broke, senior UMP figure Christian Jacob wrote to French President François Hollande to ask him what he would do to pull the Superior Council of the Judiciary into line.

"This practice is not acceptable. In my opinion it is a public insult, a threat, and possibly a violation of the magistrates’ oath," Christian Jacob wrote, citing "a serious breach of the principle of judicial impartiality".

On Twitter, former UMP minister Nadine Morano, said the "Wall of Jerks" showed "the disgrace and the true face" of the Union.

For Vice President of the National Front Louis Aliot, the controversy raised the question whether the “subversive union that runs contrary to basic democratic principles" should be disbanded.

This sentiment was echoed by the Institute for Justice (IPJ), whose Secretary General Xavier Bébin is also plastered on the wall. The IPJ said it had "no words to describe the moral indecency" of the presence of a victim of French serial killer Guy Georges on the wall.

Complaints filed

The police too have come in for ridicule. Patrice Ribeiro, Secretary General of the Synergie Officers Union, denounced "the existence of a hunting board established by the judiciary" and questioned "the impartiality of the judiciary.”

Robert Ménard, former president of Reporters Without Borders, also said he would file an official complaint after discovering his portrait. "As a citizen, I can only be alarmed at the idea of one day facing a judge belonging to a union that will have called me an 'idiot',” he said.

Date created : 2013-04-25