Thursday, October 23, 2008


French Judges Not On Strike

French judges aren't inclined to go on strike or even march in the street to demonstrate their grievances. There are lots of reasons for that. But enough judges had enough complaints for their union(s) to call for a demonstration of their dissatisfaction and voicing of their grievances. The problem is not their pay or retirement benefits, it is the means at their disposal to deliver their mission. Their complaints range from understaffing (with consequently long delays to deliver justice, or to provide educators and counselors for minors) to leaking roofs, to over-crowding of prisons.

They also have a number of constraints on their public behaviour. It may be "unseemly" for magistrates to march in the street, more so to go on strike, and even problematic to demonstrate collective protest in any way. Nevertheless, they felt the need to make their complaints known.

What to do? Some may have demonstrated if they weren't duty-bound to be somewhere else; I haven't seen any reports (yet) in the mainstream media of such demonstrations. Another, ingenious, solution, came from a very popular (anonymous) French lawyer blogger, Maître Eolas. He proposed to enable magistrates to express, anonymously or not, their grievances on his blog. About sixty availed themselves of the opportunity (according to his RSS feed, which is what I read unless I feel an unsuppressible interest in the comments).

This seems to be another remarkable, innovative use of the web to develop participation and communication in collective decision-making, even if the "collective decision-making" in this instance is not too real in the sense that the constituants of the collectivity are not particularly empowered to resolve the issues brought forward. At the very least, it provides a focussed, vetted source of pertinent information, arguments, and comments for the public as an alternative to the "press".

Bravo, Maître.

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