PARIS (Reuters) – A judicial investigation will be opened into an alleged conflict of interest on the part of Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti, the prosecutor attached to France’s highest civil court said on Friday.
Dupond-Moretti’s office declined to comment.
Dupond-Moretti was a celebrity lawyer and household name before he was named minister by President Emmanuel Macron in July with a brief to reform the justice system.
However, the biggest magistrates’ unions said he was biased against some judges after decades of work as a lawyer and unfit to preside over a revamp of the judiciary.
Weeks before his ministerial appointment, Dupond-Moretti alleged prosecutors at the financial crimes unit (PNF) had abused their powers by accessing his phone records, and those of other lawyers, as part of an investigation into alleged corruption by former President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Dupond-Moretti sued members of the PNF but withdrew the lawsuit when weeks later he was appointed to run the judiciary.
Tensions between the minister and his judges intensified in the months that followed. In October an anti-corruption group filed a complaint to the Cour de la Justice de la Republique, a special court dealing with allegations against sitting ministers.
Soon after, three magistrates’ unions filed similar claims.
“It falls therefore on the prosecutor general (of the Cour de Cassation) … to open a judicial investigation against Mr Eric Dupond-Moretti,” Prosecutor General Francois Molins said in a statement.
Dupond-Moretti has said the unions were using the allegations of conflicts of interest to block his reform plans, including a move to film court proceedings and re-write the training book for judges.
(Reporting by Matthieu Prothard and Richard Lough; Editing by Giles Elgood and Cynthia Osterman)