“It is better for the State Council to be on the side of disorder than on the side of order”

FIGAROVOX/TRIBUNE – The Council of State, seized by the ministry, is demanding a harsher sentence against a teacher for his involvement in the forced evacuation of students who occupied the amphitheater at the University of Montpellier in 2018. Anne-Marie Le Pourhiet and François-Xavier Lucas decipher this decision.

Anne-Marie Le Pourhiet is Professor Emeritus of Public Law. Francois-Xavier Lucas is a private law professor.

In March 2018, universities launched a protest movement against the Student Orientation and Success Act, which aims to reduce first-year failure rates by allowing each university to set prerequisites for selecting its own students. This movement was accompanied by occupation of places that prevented classes from being held in institutions that are more prone to violence, clashes with the police and all kinds of damage. The Montpellier law school was occupied mainly by outside demonstrators, and on the night of March 22-23, a commando of masked people, armed with wooden planks and electric pulse guns, removed these nameless residents from the amphitheater. No one was injured, but shots were fired during the violent evacuation. Jean-Luc Coronel de Boissezon, assistant professor of legal history, who was filmed by a surveillance camera, joined the intervention of this group and was sentenced to fourteen months by the judicial correctional center of Montpellier, even if he did not carry a weapon or a mask. a sentence of imprisonment, eight of which is suspended, in addition to deprivation of all public service for a period of one year. An appeal is currently being filed against this decision.

From a disciplinary point of view, the “proportionate” punishment on the scale of the seven sanctions provided for in the Education Code was expected to affect the relevant person to what extent he/she culpably participated in this act of violence. In the first instance, the president of the University of Montpellier transferred the case to the disciplinary department of the Scientific Council of the Sorbonne University, and the latter decided to dismiss Jean-Luc Coronel de Boissezon and permanently ban him from working in any position with him. public higher education institution. However, in March 2022, based on the professor’s appeal, the National Council for Higher Education and Research (CNESER), which deals with disciplinary issues, reduced the sanction imposed on him to perform his functions in any institution to a four-year ban on his performance in any institution. by being deprived of his salary. This reduction is especially explained by the admission of the dean of the faculty that the commando entered the building at the beginning. The Council of State, seized by the Minister of Higher Education and Research on December 30, 2022 in the cassation procedure, considers the sanction announced by Cneser to be disproportionate not because it is too strong, but because it considers it too weak. about the guilt committed! The Council of State therefore remits the case to Cneser, that he may re-decide on the actions of M. Coronel de Boissezon. But in reality, he is ordering Cneser to choose between two higher sanctions on the scale, automatic retirement or dismissal. A radical exception then. This decision raises a number of questions.

Thus, the State Council retains the concept of collective responsibility, which would be unconstitutional if applied to the “thugs” of student demonstrations.

Anne-Marie Le Pourhiet and François-Xavier Lucas

The first concerns the powers of the cassation judge. The latter, while certainly based on an assessment of the facts, allows the sanction imposed by a professional disciplinary body to be overturned if it considers it disproportionate to the facts alleged. But when he considers the sentence too severe, he always does so in order to protect the public servant from abuse of the powers of the administration. It is not surprising that, besides being an academic, he considers the punishment too low. The decision of the State Council dated December 30, 2022 is even more shocking, because it has a radical and decisive impact on the career of the professor, whose qualifications as a teacher and researcher are not at all questioned. The cassation judge replaces the assessment of the facts with the judgment of the court judge, i.e. Cneser of the specially selected instance, by ordering the dismissal of the officials instead of the suspension without pay for four years. The university will carry out such evaluation within the framework of democracy. The State Council’s harshness is all the more remarkable given that the criminal judge imposed an additional penalty of only one year’s ban from any function or public work for the same facts.

Moreover, the State Council is content to hide its motivation in a laconic manner “participation” from the teacher “incidents that led to the violent expulsion of students” by a “hooded commandos armed with planks of wood and rifles”. The professor says nothing about his personal responsibility when he is not part of this commando and is neither armed nor hooded. Thus, the State Council retains the concept of collective responsibility, which would be unconstitutional if applied to the “thugs” of student demonstrations.

Unfortunately, the Minister of Higher Education and the State Council could not make a reasonable distinction in this matter.

Anne-Marie Le Pourhiet and François-Xavier Lucas

The concern also stems from the administrative judge’s willful ignorance of context. “Although it rightly maintains the violent character of the evacuation involving the relevant person, the State Council on the other hand is limited to connecting the illegal and brutal occupation of the university building by a group of students with an uncertain fact.” national movement”, without any mention of the accompanying brutality, gross insults and insults. At the beginning of the deterioration of the situation, the obvious shortcomings of the university president and prefect were not mentioned, while in other faculties disciplinary forces were required to protect buildings and guarantee classes. Are we to understand that the reconstruction of the muscular order, which attempts to restore the amphitheater to its natural function, is a major disciplinary offense, even if there are no bodily injuries, which deserves a definitive expulsion from the French University? This unprecedented and dubious decision by the State Council based on the appeal of the Minister of Higher Education, who himself was under pressure from the student union, leads one to conclude that instead of protecting the rights of the person concerned, the sentence would be more lenient. university, he had reached out to his profession. How can this attitude not be compared with the harshness observed by the trial judge in terms of self-defense, the reaction of the law enforcement officers to the refusal to comply with the demands, and the return of the squatters? Admittedly, attacks on the rule of law are not judged in the same way, depending on whether they are on the disciplinary side or not. Of course, no civil, criminal or disciplinary action was taken against the offending students. Jean-Luc Coronel de Boissezon did not hide his conservative political ideas, he was the “itch” to be presented as the ideal culprit, victim.

It is regrettable that the failure of the Minister of Higher Education and the Council of State to make a reasonable distinction in this case has further increased the sense of ideological bias in the French courts.

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