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The French Prosecutor as Judge. The Carpenter’s Mistake?
Prosecutors and Democracy: A Cross-National Study (2017)
  • Mathilde Cohen
In France as elsewhere, prosecutors and their offices are seldom seen as agents of democracy. A distinct theoretical framework is itself missing to conceptualize the prosecutorial function in democratic states committed to the rule of law. What makes prosecutors democratically legitimate? Can they be made accountable to the public? Combining democratic theory with original qualitative empirical data, my hypothesis is that in the French context, prosecutors’ professional status and identity as judges determines to a great extent whether and how they can be considered democratic figures.
The French judicial function is defined more broadly than in the United States, encompassing two types of “magistrats”: prosecutors and judges. Technically, prosecutors are judges, having attended the same national school for the judiciary, enjoying the same civil servant status, and being able to transfer back and forth throughout their career between judgeships and prosecutorial posts. As members of the judiciary, they share in a number of characteristics of the French bench but they enjoy far less autonomy than judges because of the pervasive role of the executive in their transfers and promotions as well as governmental interventions in prosecutorial decisions. The chapter suggests that despite these differences, prosecutors’ professional identity as judges may protect their independence. 
  • Prosecutor,
  • criminal law,
  • democracy,
  • criminal justice system,
  • comparative law,
  • france,
  • judges,
  • courts,
  • ethnography,
  • qualitative research
Publication Date
Maximo Langer & David Alan Sklansky
Cambridge University Press
ASCL Studies in Comparative Law
13: 9781107187559
Citation Information
Mathilde Cohen. "The French Prosecutor as Judge. The Carpenter’s Mistake?" Prosecutors and Democracy: A Cross-National Study (2017) p. 109 - 137
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