'I have to vomit': Why France's new justice minister is so controversial?

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'I have to vomit': Why France's new justice minister is so controversial?
Eric Dupond-Moretti is a star criminal lawyer. Photo: AFP

When the name of France's new justice minister was revealed, it was the biggest surprise in a government reshuffle that overall contained few big shocks. So who is Eric Dupond-Moretti and why do so many people dislike him?


As soon as the announcement that Dupont-Moretti would take over the role as France's justice minister was made on Monday, social media filled with comments expressing disbelief.



It was, analysts said, a sole shock-appointment in a government revamp indicating a general tilt to the right.

Dupond-Moretti insisted on Tuesday that he was standing on the side of the French.

"I am at war with no one," he said at a press conference.

"I will, together with you, keep the best and change the worst."

But he has a lot of people to win over. Here's why.



1. He's a star lawyer but defends controversial people

At 59, Dupond-Moretti has achieved a reputation as a star criminal lawyer. His record in winning acquittals for his clients has earned him the nickname Acquittator (the Acquitter).


But the names on the list of people he has defended are among the reasons some people strongly dislike him.
Among the famous personas on the shortlist of Dupond-Moretti's most controversial defenses and acquittals are Patrick Balkany - a right-wing power broker jailed for tax fraud and money laundering in 2019 - Karim Benzema - a French professional football player who plays for Real Madrid, accused of blackmailing a teammate with a sex-tape in 2015 - and Georges Tron - a former public officials accused of rape by two former female colleagues.
Not to mention the brother of terrorist Mohammed Merah who launched an attack on a Jewish school and killed French soldiers in 2012.


2. He's a known critic of the #MeToo movement.
He belongs to the political left, but is known as a stout and critic of the MeToo movement.
Caroline De Haas, leader of the French feminist organisation Nous Toutes, said the decision of making Dupond-Moretti made her "vomit."
"Ladies and gentlemen, our new justice minister," she tweeted, adding: "I have to vomit, I will be back."
Former French Senator and member of the Socialist Party Laurence Rossignol slammed the appointment of Dupond-Moretti - alongside that of rape-accused Gérald Darmanin as interior minister - as a "formidable slap in the face by Emmanuel Macron of all those who have been fighting to end sexual and sexist violence."
3. He's very outspoken

Not only does Dupond-Moretti have controversial opinions, he is also not afraid of speaking them.

He is a "strange mixture of hunter and bullfight enthusiast and left-wing politics," said political commentator John Lichfield, who writes for The Local.


France daily Le Monde compared Dupont-Moretti to the highly divisive persona of Didier Raoult, the world-famous French virologist known for his controversial medical stances and his stout defense of hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment. He has become a global symbol of what happens when the paths of science and populism cross.

Dupond-Moretti, the Le Monde article said, had the same effect in the judicial world as Raoult had in the medical world. Giving him the keys to the justice ministry had an immediate effect of "flabbergast" and "disbelief" among lawyers.

4. He's not very popular among other lawyers
That brings us to the the next point, as his controversial opinions and candour has made him into a very divisive figure in the legal world.
"He is a controversial figure known for his trenchant views and intemperate remarks on the French justice system," said Jim Shields, professor of French Politics at the University of Warwick,
"If Macron wanted a consensual Justice Minister who would not make waves with the legal establishment, Dupond-Moretti looks the wrong man for the job," Shields told The Local.
Monday's announcement immediately caused a chain reaction of disbelief and uproar by French lawyers and magistrates. 
"Naming such a divisive personality who despises judges to such an extent is a declaration of war on the judiciary," said Céline Parisot, president of the French Judge's Union shortly after his appointment.
"We are in shock," Parisot said, "we feel like this is a declaration of war."

5. He wants to ban Marine Le Pen's far-right party

Not only is he despised among many feminists and people belonging to the liberal left, he has also made the French far-right party Rassemblement National (formerly Front National) his enemy by saying they should be banned.

"The FN is not a republican party, we need to ban it," Dupond-Moretti told France Inter back in 2015.

Five years later, his comment has not been forgotten by the party members, who quickly condemned the decision to make him justice minister.

"A far-left militant who wants to ban RN, the largest opposition party, has been named to (head) the justice (department), tweeted party leader Marine Le Pen.






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