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Maigret and the Judges

by Murielle Wenger

[French original]

"the battle open, the old conflict never declared but always latent
between the Prosecutor's Office and the Quai des Orfèvres"

In the beginning of the corpus, particularly in the Fayard cycle, the Examining Magistrate is content to make a brief appearance in the novel, "leaving the way free" for Maigret to tranquilly lead his investigation, not even receiving a name, as anonymous as functional...

GAL: "The judge was satisfied, after having shaken the Chief Inspector's hand, to declare, "You will see the local police who have begun the investigation! It's a horribly tangled affair."

OMB: "The Examining Magistrate had a short meeting with Maigret. "I'll leave you to your work... Naturally, you'll keep me up to date..."

In GUI, the judge doesn't even get the right to speak, and must be content with an indication of a dialogue where only Maigret's words are reported...

"A few minutes later, the Examining Magistrate in charge of the Feinstein affair telephoned him.
"This evening, I hope to send you my complete report on the affair," declared the Chief Inspector.
"... "
"Yes, the guilty party also, of course..."
"... "
"Not at all! As common an affair as could be! Yes! Until this evening, Your Honor."

the same, further along...

"Hello! .... In ten minutes, Your Honor... Who? ... I don't know yet... I swear!... Am I in the habit of joking? ... "

In eto, Maigret completely avoids any contact with the judge, leaving the local police to receive the men of the Prosecutor's Office, and Maigret addresses only a single sentence to the judge... "I'm dashing off to the Quai!" he lanced at the Examining Magistrate, who'd just arrived. "I think I've got something interesting." A fine excuse! But young Céline, who Maigret had brought into his office was certainly a lovely pretext for escaping from the judge...

From the Gallimard cycle, and then in the Presses de la Cité editions, Examining Magistrates get the right to a name, as well as some description... Thus, the "minuscule Examining Magistrate, Mabille" in CEC, Judge Bonneau in MAJ, "an honest man, even a good man, father of a family, a collector of rare bindings. He had a fine gray squared beard."; in PAR, Judge Cajou, "brown hair, in his forties"; in CLO, Judge Dantziger, "small and round, ... dressed carelessly".

We also note that Examining Magistrates, as the years pass, are more and more often young judges, of an "insulting youth" (TEM) for Maigret. Thus in ECH the young Examining Magistrate Planche, "too new in the job" to dare question Maigret; in VOY, another young Examining Magistrate named Calas, who has "the look of a student"; in BRA, again a young magistrate, Etienne Gossard; in TEM, Judge Angelot, archetype of the young judges for whom Maigret has a particular aversion... "The young magistrate, who had just been appointed, offered a firm and well-kept hand, a tennis player's hand, and Maigret thought once more that a new generation was taking over."; the same thoughts in TUE, where Maigret has to work with Judge Poiret: "Another young one. It seemed to the Chief Inspector that the judicial personnel, for some years, renewed itself with disconcerting rapidity."; and finally a young judge in SEU, Judge Cassure, "a big boy, lean and supple, dressed perfectly, who seemed like he was still a schoolboy".

If certain judges "prudently leave the police the time to do their job" (VOL), like Judge Cayotte in NAH, who has "a policy of letting the police work alone for two or three days before getting involved with a case", others are classified by Maigret in the "pain-in-the-neck" group (see the examples below). And there are some in a more "neutral" category, like Judge Camus in VOL, Judge Legaille in PAR, and Judge Libart in FOL.

The "pains-in-the-neck" are more intrusive, adding to their interference a haughtiness extremely offensive to Maigret. Thus, Judge d'Epernay in PRO, "a Clairfontaine de Lagny, proud of his particulars", wearing a pince-nez, speaking English with a touch of affectation; or the Examining Magistrate in JUG, who tells Maigret: "Are you going to do a good investigation for us, Chief Inspector?" And consider also the Examining Magistrate in SIG... "Another one who would grow impatient, feel that the case was taking too long, talk to the press, critics, insist that measures be taken..."

The judges, on a par with their social position, are often connected to the same milieu as certain suspects, and their "bowing and scraping" irritates Maigret, whose job is not simplified by these social relationships. Thus, in POR, Mme Grandmaison receives the men of the Prosecutor's Office...

"Truly, Your Honor, you've never come to Ouistreham and you've been living in Caen for how many years?"
"Twelve, dear Madame..."
The Examining Magistrate, tall and thin, fiftyish, who could hardly see, in spite of thick glasses, took Maigret aside.
"Of course, I give you carte blanche. But call me every evening to keep me up to date. What do you think? A common mugging, isn't it?...
And, as M. Grandmaison approaches, he continues in a loftier tone, "And furthermore you're lucky to have such a mayor as Ouistreham's, who will make your job much easier... Isn't that so, old friend?"

And consider also Judge Alain de Folletier, in VAC, "big, fat, a ruddy complexion", with a fine brown mustache, smoking a cigar and adopting with Maigret a tone "amiable to the point of condescension, a gentleman of old stock conversing with a man who was interesting, but a little common.".

But Maigret sometimes gets "revenge", taking malicious pleasure in not giving a judge time to explain... so, in pen, Maigret explains to a judge what has happened, and the judge tries in vain to interrupt... "But..." objected the judge. "Later! Let me finish..." ... "Excuse me," murmured the judge..." "Later!"; in fen, "[Maigret] speaking casually, as if to excuse himself for having done the job so quickly and not to embarrass the magistrate... "By chance I happened to be there at the right moment, and I saw the office boy..." "He's the one who... but that's impossible since..." "Wait!" .... "So that's basically the reason for the arrest warrant that..." "Excuse me a moment?" ... "But..." "Wait!"

There are some exceptions among the string of unpleasant judges... Judgee Bréjon in CAD, a "a fine, delightful, shy fellow, with the manners of another century"; the shy Judge Dossin in MME, with the aristocratic silhouette of a Russian wolfhound", Judge Urbain de Chézaud in VIE, with " an intelligent air" who Maigret liked, and besides, a pipe smoker!; Judge Daumas, in HES, "a little shy, whose only fault was meticulousness"; Judge Page in ENF, "a good lad, conscientious", who let Maigret smoke in his chambers! Another pipe-smoking judge in IND, Judge Bouteille; and then, in CHA, Judge Coindet, "an old judge, friendly and smiling", and he too a pipe smoker! And finally Judge Ancelin in PAT, "a plump little man, very blond, his hair ruffled, with the white skin of a baby, and candid blue eyes." With him, a sort of "complicity" developed, and he's the only judge with whom Maigret will go so far as to share a meal... a judge who loves a good meal, and shares Maigret's taste for "country" food, which you don't find everyday!

And finally we have the special case of Julien Chabot, Examining Magistrate of Fontenay, a friend of Maigret's from his school days, whom we meet in PEU. His special relationship with Maigret makes him a special character, outside the list of judges, and if Maigret meets him during the exercise of his functions, it's as much as Chief Inspector as friend that Maigret both opposes him and allies himself with him in his investigation.

Let's end with this extract illustrating with humor the not always simple relationship between Maigret and the judges, found in REV... Maigret, irritated by his investigation, which is standing still, and above all because he has to go to London, receives a telephone call from Judge Rateau...

"The telephone rang. He was about to put on his tie.
"Maigret? It's Rateau."
The Examining Magistrate, naturally, who had spent the night in his bed, who was no doubt delighted to be awakened by a beautiful sun, and who, while eating his croissants, wanted the news.
"What can you tell me?
"I can tell you that I don't have any time, that I'm taking the plane for London in 35 minutes."
"For London?"
"That's right."
"But what have you learned that..."
"Sorry to have to hang up – the airplane won't wait."
He was in such a mood that he added,
"I'll send you a postcard!"
Of course, by then, he'd already hung up.

translation: S. Trussel
Honolulu, December 2007

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