To Thwart the Managerialism in the French Criminal Courts ? the Consequences of the LAW of 2014

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Christian MOUHANNA, Centre de recherches sociologiques sur le droit et les institutions penales (CESDIP), France, Centre de recherches sociologiques sur le droit et les institutions pénales (CESDIP), France
For more than 20 years, the French criminal courts have been committed in a vast movement of managerialization, which has deeply changed not only the courts’ organization and the magistrates’ work, but also their professional habits and their culture (Bastard & Mouhanna, 2011). They are now embedded in a more restrictive social system in which they have to produce mass decisions, measured by work statistics. They have to use scales in their decision-making process. And they don’t have enough time to assess each case and each personality. As a result, the courts’ organizations, based on quickness and race for productivity -more decisions in a shorter time-, have assigned the magistrates and clerks to specialized positions, where they only have a limited sight of the overall system. Each actor focuses on his own work and doesn’t have a clear idea of the « production » of the decision chain, i.e. what will be the final penalty if there is one. In that sense, the judicial process could be liken to an assembly-line work, in which each person has only a fragmented view of the process.

A French law of 2014 tried to break off these excesses of the courts’ management. Because it leads to increase the number of people jailed, the new law has encouraged the magistrates to stop their isolation and to cooperate together in order to examine more deeply some cases -the ones with people who risk short-term prison sentence. The aim was to decrease the number of inmates, but also to avoid the bad effects of prison on these people. We will examine the concrete consequences of this Law on the courts, which are very different from one place to another.