From Ile de la Cité to Batignolles, the historic move of the Paris court

Ⓒ AFP – CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT – | The new Paris Law Courts designed by the Italian
architect Renzo Piano on March 26, 2018 in the Batignolles
district, north-west of Paris

After several centuries on the Ile de la Cité, the Paris
court leaves its historic walls: the new Courthouse, a large
modern building in the Batignolles district, northwest of the
capital, hosts its first hearing on Monday.

Culminating at 160 meters, the new court is imposed for
several months in the landscape of the capital: it is the
second tallest tower of Paris intramural, after the tower
Montparnasse. Up to 9,000 people will visit each day in this
building consisting of four sets of glass bunk. It was designed
by the architect of the Pompidou Center, Renzo Piano, and his
partner, Bernard Plattner.

At the entrance of the litigants, article 9 of the
declaration of the humans right: “Every man is presumed
innocent until he has been declared guilty”. The luminous
building plays on the transparencies, especially in the hall of
steps, behind a large glass facade. Large escalators go up to
the courtrooms.

Ⓒ AFP – CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT – | The main hall of the new Palais de Justice in Paris,
designed by architect Renzo Piano on March 26, 2018 in the
Batignolles district, north-west of Paris

The Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI) and the twenty
district courts will be grouped in this building which has 90
courtrooms. The first civil hearing will take place on Monday
but, in correctional, the trials will start mid-May.

The assize proceedings will always be held on the Ile de la
Cité: the Court of Appeal, on which the Assize Courts depend,
and the Court of Cassation will remain in the historic walls of
the Courthouse, where Marie-Antoinette Emile Zola or Philippe
Pétain were tried.

“I find it beautiful this new palace,” said Jean-Michel
Hayat, president of the TGI Paris. “I am convinced that he will
respond to a strong expectation of litigants,” he told AFP.

“It was absolutely necessary to move in. One could no longer
render justice in satisfactory conditions” in the former
courthouse, according to him.

Ⓒ AFP – Vincent LEFAI – | The new Palais de Justice in Paris

The main difficulty lay in the small offices of magistrates
and registry officials. Courtrooms were used to their fullest
capacity, according to the Department of Justice. Studies have
“shown that even at the cost of important work, the palace had
reached the possible limits of its extension,” says the
ministry.

– Controversial funding –

Ⓒ AFP – CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT – | A courtroom in the new Palais de Justice in Paris,
designed by the architect Renzo Piano on March 26, 2018 in the
Batignolles district, north-west of Paris

But Mr. Hayat’s enthusiasm is not shared by everyone. Many
lawyers already regret the courthouse of Ile de la Cité. “His
smells, his corridors, his lights … I’m going to miss
everything.” It’s a page that is turning, “told AFP attorney
Hervé Témime. “We circulated freely in this palace, no badge to
access the registry or the instruction,” he said, while in the
new court, a badge will be needed.

“I am attached to the Ile de la Cité as ivy is to the tree,”
said the former Minister of Justice Robert Badinter in Paris
Match, highlighting “the long judicial past” of the court.

Ⓒ AFP – CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT – | The main hall of the new Palais de Justice in Paris,
designed by architect Renzo Piano on March 26, 2018 in the
Batignolles district, north-west of Paris

Considered for a long time, the move was relaunched in 2003
by President Jacques Chirac. In 2009, his successor Nicolas
Sarkozy decided in favor of the Batignolles, as part of the
Grand Paris project. The neighborhood is still under
construction, while the extension of line 14 of the metro is
two years late.

Court funding, in the form of a public-private partnership
(PPP), is also controversial.

The association “Justice in the city”, composed mainly of
lawyers, led a long legal battle for the maintenance of the TGI
on the Ile de la Cité and demanded the cancellation of the PPP
contract.

The Bouygues group finances the construction of the building
and will provide maintenance and upkeep for 27 years. In
return, the State will pay rent for the duration of the
contract after which it will become owner of the building.
Total cost: 2.35 billion euros.

In December, the Court of Auditors
criticized this contract: the use of this PPP, “guided by
short-term budgetary considerations, implies annual rents of an
average amount of 86 million euros (until 2044) which will
weigh heavily on the budget of the Ministry of Justice “.

In March, Minister of Justice Nicole Belloubet also
announced the abandonment of PPPs for future construction of
prisons and courts.

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