Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 November 2020
On May 20, 2020 the front-page splash of L’Express, one of France’s leading weeklies, ran “Out for blood! Upping-the-ante in COVID-19 lawsuits” (“Surenchère judiciaire autour du COVID-19. Cette soif de coupables”). The headline flagged the spate of criminal complaints brought against ministers of Edouard Philippe’s government. The latest count tops seventy! This chapter endeavors to explain why the declaration of a “health-related” state of emergency to address the COVID-19 epidemic – an out-of-the-ordinary event – produced this rash of criminal complaints in France. Why are citizens frantically looking to hold ministers liable under criminal law? Or, more polemically, why this surge in “penal populism” by complainants “out for blood”? This phenomenon is one indication, among many others, of the worrying state of democracy in France.