The color of judgment : discrimination in rulings on cases involving offenses against French police officers, 1965-2005
There is very little French research on possible discrimination by the French police or judiciary – a surprising state of affairs given how explosive this issue is, as attested by the November 2005 riots. This article analyzes discrimination in criminal and civil cases by defendant’s origin ; it studies the case files of defendants charged with offenses against police officers and tried in the Paris district court (tribunal de grande instance) between 1965 and 2005. « Maghrebin » and « Black » defendants (classification determined by place of birth and last names) are approximately twice as likely as « European » defendants to be sentenced to prison and they receive longer prison sentences ; the police officers involved in these cases are also more likely to sue as private plaintiffs alongside the public prosecutor. Multivariate analysis suggests that judicial system discrimination may be imputable to legal technicalities : the judicial machine overpenalizes its « usual customers », among whom Maghrebins and Blacks are overrepresented. However, when it comes to the police officers’ decisions to sue in their own name, racial factors are active in the model.