by Inger Høedt-Rasmussen (Copenhagen University) and Dirk Voorhoof (Ghent University)
The Grand Chamber in its judgment of 23 April 2015 in the case of Morice v. France has overruled an earlier finding of non-violation of the right to freedom of expression of a lawyer (Chamber judgment Fifth Section, 11 July 2013). The Grand Chamber found that the applicant lawyer in the newspaper Le Monde had expressed value judgments with a sufficient factual basis and that his remarks concerning a matter of public interest had not exceeded the limits of the right to freedom of expression. Therefore it considered the lawyer’s conviction for defamation of two investigative judges as a breach of Article 10 of the Convention. The Grand Chamber’s judgment defines in an interesting way the role and responsibilities of lawyers in relation to society and in relation to their clients and to the administration of justice. It emphasises that lawyers, although being in a role that differs from the role of journalists, should be able to draw the public’s attention to potential shortcomings in the justice system. In a first reaction in Le Monde, Morice (the applicant) called the judgment “une grande victoire pour l’ensemble de la profession des avocats”.