After more than three years of proceedings, the Paris Administrative Tribunal
was finally so wise to rule in my favour in my case against the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo
, and her cabinet. What is the fuss all about? In France, any citizen can access any documents produced by public institutions. This right is comparable to the Freedom of Information Act
in the US or the UK. I regularly make use of this possibility when doing research or looking for stories. Most public institutions react a little irritated to such a request because they will have to make some effort to find what I’m looking for. Yet, they almost always cooperate. In the case any administration refuses or ‘forgets’ to answer my requests, citizens can bring the decision before the CADA
, the Commission that deals with the accessibility of administrative documents.
In recent years, I had to do this nine times. And nine times, I have been proved right. After such a decision, the civil servants usually comply. In 2018, I filed a request to the City of Paris. They never answered, so I went to the CADA, who gave, again, a so-called ‘positive opinion’ (on 12 July 2018
). The City again never answered. So I had no other option but to go to Court. A long wait began. It would take almost another three years before the judges actually heard my case. This long delay is not unusual. The French courts are structurally underfunded. France spends just €69 per citizen per year on the judicial system, while Germany spends almost double
, €131. Judges are underpaid, courthouses are in many cases derelict and often make you think of Les Misérables
(the book, not the musical!).
At the hearing last February, the judge reprimanded the City’s barrister for abuse of power by the civil service and trampling press freedom. Last week the Court ruled in favour of Yours truly. The City was ordered to pay damages of one thousand euros and to reimburse all legal costs. It is, of course, excellent for me and for journalism in general. Still, it is a pity that the Mayor of Paris violated the law and even went as far as wasting taxpayer’s money on lawyers and lawsuits. However, this ‘profit’ enables me to initiate new lawsuits against authorities that flout the rules. City Hall now has until mid-May to send me the documents or to appeal. Like many others, Anne Hidalgo already sees herself in the Elysée Palace
next year. Maybe she fears that I will find some compromising facts that could harm her campaign. If that is the case, you will be the first to read about it in this newsletter.