behind the scenes of a criminal law firm


Isabelle Curet and Emmanuel Guionet, the authors of the documentary, have managed to capture these rare images. Defend, aired wednesday 1is December in the weekly program “Infrarouge”, on France 2. Raw images without commentary of the daily life of the Parisian criminal law firm Ruben & Associés. For several months, their camera was able to slip behind the scenes of the criminal defense as close as possible to those who, accused or civil party, are one day brought into court. And get a lawyer.

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Among the hundreds of cases the firm manages are Jonathan, a young man accused of “failing to assist a person in danger” after the death of a friend with whom he had used MDMA; Romain, already weighted down with sixteen convictions, sent back to court for drug trafficking; or this young man suspected of having stolen a game console at the threat of a pistol.

All, despite the anguish they then share of ending up in prison, have accepted that the preparatory interviews they had with their counsel be filmed without their faces being blurred. A crucial step normally inaccessible to viewers as the legal strategy usually prefers discretion. The cases on the screen have all been tried since.

Reality of the courtrooms

The exchanges are unfiltered. Steeve Ruben, 45, and Philippe-Henry Honegger, 38, the two partners of the firm, know that it will be even harder at the hearing and strive to create a bridge between a clientele, often young and little in the of the functioning of the judicial system, and the magistrates they will have to convince. “We are going to prepare your version, I play the cop, you answer me”, Honegger said to a client. “Short and clear answer! “, he cuts immediately as he awkwardly embarked on his report on firearms. “Justice is not a confessional! “Ruben said to another.

Steeve Ruben, lawyer: “Justice is not a confessional! “

During the sixty minutes, breathless, often funny, sometimes touching, the spectator accompanies the team of the cabinet during days whose rhythm is given as well by the energetic Steeve Ruben as by the penal urgency of the cases which they have to deal with. Morning meeting to take stock of current cases, first trip to prison for a very young lawyer, first sitting for another.

The young team that surrounds Ruben and Honegger confronts their ideal of justice with the reality of the courtrooms while listening to the advice given by their elders on how to address magistrates, jurors or clients. In the footsteps of the Ruben commando, the outlines of today’s criminal defense are taking shape. Modern, responsive, relentless. Close to the real too. As a daily response to a justice whose shortcomings are no longer to be demonstrated.

Defend, documentary by Isabelle Curet and Emmanuel Guionet (Fr., 2021, 65 min). Broadcast as part of the “Infrarouge” program on France 2.

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