Francois Henri Briard
2021, Interview. Author of Vivre Libre (Living Freely) preface by French Army General Jean-Louis Georgelin, is a distinguished man and partner at the law firm BRIARD, Supreme Courts Attorney, serving as a lawyer at the Council of State and the Court of Cassation of France since 1988, focusing on public business law, economic regulation, competition, media, and taxation. He also pleads before the Constitutional Council, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Supreme Courts of Monaco. He has been on the Governing Board of the Bar of the French Supreme Courts.
Briard has been responsible for major infrastructure projects in France, like Euro Disney and Eurostar, representing public bodies and large French and foreign companies. His pleaded issues include Franco-American trade, foreign investment in France, media and competition, tax law, and economic intelligence. In 2010, Briard was the first to file a constitutional review petition before the French “Conseil constitutionnel.” With numerous interventions and publications in France and the United States, he has intervened in domestic and international arbitration occasionally. François-Henri Briard is a notable connoisseur of French Society, the American Constitution, and a fervent disciple of the French-American alliance, an expert operating with American think tanks such as the Federalist Society, the American Enterprise Institute, concentrating on constitutional and judicial issues.
In 1993, Francois-Henri Briard, with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, co-founded the Vergennes Society and today is President of the Institut Vergennes. According to a lecture at Yale Law School in 2006, “The Institute seeks to foster cooperation between the French and U.S. Supreme Courts; among its members are Justice Stephen Breyer and the presidents of the French Supreme Courts.” Emilie Saadoun states in CAUSEUR, “his book (Vivre Libre) is dedicated to the memory of Antonin Scalia, judge of the United States Supreme Court who marked thirty years of jurisprudence there and to whom Briard was close.”
Briard is a graduate of the European Communities University and the Paris Institut d’Études Politiques (Public Service section). His post-graduate degree (DEA) is in Private Law from the University of Paris II (Panthéon-Assas). He completed the certification examination for practice before the Council of State and Court of Cassation (CAPAC). He was Secretary of the pleading competition for counsel admitted to practice before the Council of State and the Court of Cassation. Through the National Defense Higher Education Institute (IHEDN), he became an Auditor, CASTEX class (2005–2006), appointed by Prime Minister de Villepin.
Furthermore, Francois-Henri Briard is a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honor, The Legion of Honor is considered the highest national decoration, and he is the recipient of several high honors.), Chevalier des Palmes académiques (Knight of the Academic Palms), and Officier de l’ordre national du Mérite (Officer of the National Order of Merit). He is and has been a member of the Supreme Court Historical Society, French War College Jury, Sons of the American Revolution, The Society of Cincinnati, Versailles Académie des sciences morales, des arts et des Lettres (Moral Sciences, Letters and Arts of Versailles and Ile de France), Institute of Consulting Tax Attorneys (IACF), French Navy civilian reserve with the rank of Frigate Captain receiving on behalf of the Firm the Military Reserve Prize, head of the French Chapter of Federalist Society in Washington DC since 2005 and a Trustee of Sarah Lawrence College in New York for eight years.
With Prince Albert II of Monaco
The European Court of Human Rights
Iliana María SUCH: You have an ardent love for the United States. Would you please share a short story about your first experience in America?
François-Henri BRIARD: My first trip to the United States was in August of 1989 for a French-American tax case; I was 32 years old, and my English was extremely poor. I landed in San Francisco and went straight to the Stanford Court Hotel on California Street, thrilled, happy, and touched to be in America! I woke up early with jet lag, had breakfast with my wife in my room, and went down to get some newspapers. It was a bright and sunny day.
I then met the first American I talked to, the newspaper seller, a man of about 70 years old. He looked straight at me with a big smile, saying loudly: “Good morning! How are you? What can I do for you ?” That smile with a clear glance symbolized to me and still does the real essence of America, the shining city upon the hill, as John Winthrop said: straightness and happiness. A moment which will always remain in my heart; he looked so different from many Europeans who often looked at their feet when they spoke and were sometimes unpleasant or arrogant!
Since then, my journey has been more than 30 years with 128 trips and many great encounters, including those who taught me about the essence of the Land of Free: William Curtin and his son, my friend Bill Curtin, Justice Antonin Scalia, Karen Lugo, Justice Stephen Breyer, Michel Myers, Jay Sekulow, Leonard Leo, Judge Hardiman, and so many others. I feel tremendous gratitude towards them. My eldest son, François-Xavier, has lived in America since 1997; he is my pride and joy, as an American citizen, as little Marguerite, my tenth grandchild, born in 2021.
SUCH: In one of your lectures in 2003, “The French origins of the American Democracy,” you speak about mutual influence and that French-American exchanges have depended on this from the beginning. Does this remain true today?
BRIARD: It is a passion of mine to be involved in the extraordinary bilateral history of our two countries. France was the first ally of the United States. Not only did we provide weapons and support to fight the Brits, but we also exchanged political thinking. The close kinship and wording between the United States Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of Human Rights is the perfect example of Thomas Jefferson’s life. Today, our relationship remains close, especially in commerce and defense. The threat of China and Iran should lead us to a stronger relationship. And about contemporary issues, you can see that cases before the United States Supreme Court and French Supreme Courts are often the same. Dialogue on these problems is particularly fruitful.
SUCH: What is your philosophical and cultural approach to life?
BRIARD: In a few words, I would say: carpe diem, enjoying life and the beauty of the world, keeping disciplined for oneself, being loving and giving to others, protecting family and life, respecting the opinions, culture, and beliefs of others, struggling against ignorance, violence, and stupidity, in which we encounter here on earth often.
SUCH: “Liberté, egalité, fraternité, the abiding national motto of France and shared universal values. Do you agree with Marc-Olivier Padis when he states, “the words are the same, but the meaning has changed.” In your words, how would you describe its evolution today?
BRIARD: It is quite true that the significance of these words is no longer the same because the world has changed so much, and French society is no longer the same; furthermore, the constitutional jurisprudence in my country is a living one. Liberty is still a central place of argument today, with very different views, especially since the Covid-19 crisis. Equality is now a very elaborate concept in jurisprudence, as it was not before. The fraternity has been extended to immaterial public order (like a face concealment ban). These developments were unexpected, but the words and values remain important.
SUCH: The Atlantic describes Antonin Scalia, the United States Supreme Court justice, as a constitutional visionary and distinguished by the clarity of his vision — and, more importantly, his willingness to fight for it. A historic legacy he left behind. Can you tell us more about your relationship with Antonin Scalia and his impact on you?
BRIARD: I met Justice Scalia in 1993 through a friend, William J. Curtin, the former chairman of the board at Georgetown University and the managing partner of Morgan Lewis and Bockius law firm. We became friends, and he remained my closest American reference until his death in February 2016.
Justice Scalia and I had many legal and historical discussions, dinners, and a few trips, including one in Paris in 1999 and one famous in 2003 with Pierre Masquart (Esq), my friend, in New Orleans for the Louisiana Purchase Anniversary. Justice Scalia helped me write about the United States Supreme Court case law. He was warm, strong, clear, with a very powerful mind, and he used to say I was his only French friend. In November 2008, he introduced me to President Bush in the Oval Office. He influenced my views on reading law, freedom, judicial activism, and other issues. I miss him dearly, and he remains in my heart and mind.
The Antonin Scalia Papers, Harvard Law School
Francois-Henri Briard with President George Bush in Oval Office
SUCH: Your book, Vivre Libre (Live Freely), was written during the COVID lockdown. You mention that the freedom of France and Europe is under threat but also very misunderstood. Is freedom being threatened globally, including in the United States?
BRIARD: I wrote Vivre Libre to respond to certain thinkers pretending freedom has disappeared, a false assumption. The book’s first part fully describes domestic and international rules protecting freedom in France and Europe. In all of human history, liberty has never been more protected, making it possible for people to exercise many actions to ensure their rights prevail. Not many know this, and it must be said.
The second part concerns the meaning and the right way to exercise freedom. I tell the readers that liberty should be global and not only individual, meaning doing what the law permits and not harming others. The purpose of public order and Government is to protect liberty, and the greatest act of liberty, as said by Edith Stein, is selflessness. In the United States, like France, the COVID-19 pandemic makes necessary restrictions to some liberties, precisely to protect other liberties like the fundamental right to health.
SUCH: Can you please elaborate on what you mean by narcissistic freedom?
BRIARD: Narcissistic freedom is the word used by the French law philosopher Michel Villey. Narcissistic freedom is a false idea of liberty. For example, “I am free because I wish what I wish to do.” It is exactly what Alexis de Tocqueville, Edmon Burke, Pope Benedict XVI, and Friedrich Hayek called the “misrepresented view on liberty” because it ignores the central dimension of freedom: society and alterity. True liberty is the right to do what does not harm others. Liberty should be global, social if you wish.
SUCH: What are your views on big tech censorship and vaccine mandates?
BRIARD: Regarding big tech censorship, I agree with the European Court of Justice’s recent case law in which these companies can be challenged on data privacy and free speech by the EU public authorities and courts. Platforms must try to regulate and moderate with their own rules, as does the European Commission with digital space; however, the last word does not belong to them. It should belong to independent and impartial judges. Regarding the vaccine mandate, it is not a problem for me. The European Court of Human Rights has recently stated that social solidarity and health protection may justify the vaccine mandate. In France, we already have eleven vaccines, all mandatory for children.
SUCH: Can you share your opinions on what the Davos 2021 leadership panel examines as the most effective responses and the emerging features of a new social contract between governments, businesses, and citizens?
BRIARD: It reminds me of the “Contrat Social” by my compatriot Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762). It is a good initiative to draw public debate to public consent, general interest, social justice, and people’s sovereignty. The problem is that these theories are sometimes used to justify despotism and tyranny of the majority.
French President Emmanuel Macron; Modern Capitalism "can no longer work," urging global leaders to focus on inequality and climate change, Davos 2021.
SUCH: Are we on track toward a global collapse?
BRIARD: I don’t think so. I am confident in younger generations. However, we live in a very dangerous world, especially with the US-China possible confrontation, the Iranian problem, and the Islamic terror.
SUCH: As stated in the illustrated edition of the Universal Declaration of Independence (UDHR) published by the United Nations, “The power of the Universal Declaration is the power of ideas to change the world. It inspires us to ensure everyone can gain freedom, equality, and dignity. One vital aspect of this task is to empower people to demand what should be guaranteed: their human rights.”
What are your thoughts on the growing wealth gap and the negative impact it is causing on improving society? Are the majority of society being stripped of their freedom because of the greedy nature of a few?
BRIARD: Are you familiar with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church since Pope Leo XIII? I grew up in an ambiance of social justice and the idea of a common destination of goods. I agree with this doctrine since I understand the value of human rights. But again, personal responsibility and personal efforts, respect for the rule of law, free enterprise, and free-market are essential to individual freedom. Equality under the law is also basic, but equality between humans does not and should not exist. Equal opportunities, different outcomes, this is how it should work.
SUCH: Is it correct to assert that you are a man of God?
BRIARD: I think I am, at least I try to be. I grew up in the Catholic religion, and I have many friends inside the Catholic Church. Yes, religion is an important dimension of my life. But I am also a part of the community of spiritualists and men of goodwill, whatever their religion (or non-religion) is.
SUCH: An article by the Catholic Gentlemen titled “The Hidden Blessing in the Decay of the World System, speaks about the fear of economic collapse, forced compliance to arbitrary mandates, food shortages, media propaganda, technological surveillance, and growing totalitarian overreach by world governments that are greater than they have been in many decades. Neighbor has turned against neighbor, family member against the family member as debates about what is happening to tear apart the last vestiges of social trust and cooperation.”
“A collective examination of conscience is warranted by the times in which we live. We all must ask ourselves: How far will we go to participate in the paradigm of this world? With what will we comply or not comply? What price are we willing to pay?”
“What shall profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?”
Can you share a short reflection on this article?
BRIARD: Evil is indeed at work in our world. But I would not be so pessimistic as Sam Guzman, the author of this article. We must remember what Saint Pierre (St. Peter, 3:15–18) says, “we must be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us of the reason of the hope that is in us, but we must do it with gentleness and respect.” These two words are important, gentleness and respect. I believe in dialogue, respectful debate, and civilization.
Further, I think Christians should be in the real world. We have to accomplish our destiny in ordinary life. For believers, ordinary life is eternal if ruled with love and care toward others.
SUCH: What, in your opinion, is the best way to balance power?
BRIARD: The best way is power because only power can balance power. The genius French idea that founded the United States Constitution is the balance of three branches of power, legislative, executive, and judicial.
SUCH: Do you agree we need a moral revolution?
BRIARD: I agree with the urgent necessity of moral consciousness in human behavior; too many people have an individualistic and hedonist view of life. I urge more responsibility and solidarity among humans and start with the basics: homeland, family, and work.
SUCH: In 2019, there was a case regarding sterilized workers seeking restitution for damages. It was a significant case. You stated in the New York Times, “We live in a globalized world where it is easy for multinational companies to hide assets so as not to allow justice and court orders to be enforced,” Mr. Briard said. “This is what the U.S. companies did in Nicaragua: They poisoned people, were sentenced by the courts, and left without paying anything. He added that victims should also be allowed to cross borders to enforce payment in such a world.”
In 2019, an article was published by Stuart H. Smith titled Poisoned Nicaraguan Banana Workers get Another Shot at Justice.
Has a determination been reached, or have any new significant developments in the case?
BRIARD: Thank you for asking about this important case I am leading in Europe. We (my friends Gustavo Lopez, David Brill, Robert McKee, Stuart Smith, Bâtonnier Pierre-Olivier Sur, Bâtonnier Julie Couturier, Christoph Partsch, Esq. and I) are pursuing in France and Germany exequatur of the Nicaragua Court rulings and sentencing United States companies responsible for poisoning thousands of banana workers with the Nemagon pesticide. These companies refused to execute the Nicaraguan Court rulings and pay more than one billion United States Dollars in damages. We will make the companies pay in Europe with exequatur. The case should be ruled by the end of the year by the Paris Trial Court unless the companies decide to settle, which would be fair to these poor sick people who suffered so much from the Nemagon pesticide when used in the 70s.
SUCH: In brief, what needs to be a collective focal point amongst world powers to protect the peace and freedom threatened in society?
BRIARD: The rule of law and only the rule of law: fair trial, competition, Government, and economic welfare can be reached by and with the rule of law, enforced by the independent and impartial judiciary. We also need more world cooperation with justice.
United States Capitol (The Statue of Freedom) Sculptor Thomas Crawford and lensed by Daniel Teafoe
SUCH: According to a New York Post article, “A Taliban commander bragged in a victory speech from inside the presidential palace in Kabul that he spent eight years in Guantanamo Bay.” Many believe in the proverbial saying, “A leopard cannot change its spots.” Do you believe the new “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” will uphold human rights, maintain peace, or lead with the same brutality they have in the past? What does this takeover mean for the world?
BRIARD: I am not optimistic about that new Government, and it’s not only because they pretend to be disciples of Muhammad. I grew up in Algeria and have been a friend of the Muslim community, as of the Jewish one, two brothers, since my early life. I feel at home walking in Medina, Marrakech, or Fes. I deeply respect moderate Muslims, as for any other religion (or non-religion). But when one talks about the Taliban, one speaks about terrorism and tyranny and the world’s spread of terrorism. It is a great challenge to civilized countries, especially to the West.
As you may know, the French are doing a great job in the Sahel region with operation Barkhane. We have about 5000 troops there, fine connoisseurs of Africa, fighting Islamic groups with excellence and efficiency. The free world might have to do the same one day with the Taliban if they threaten the world’s security.
Photographed by Isaak Alexandre Karslian
SUCH: Whom do you consider the greatest political thinker of all time? Why?
BRIARD: My compatriot Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, known as «Montesquieu.» Along with John Locke, he is the founder of the separation of powers theory. To me, he is the greatest political thinker in modern times. Montesquieu was read by the American Founding Fathers in the early 1750s and significantly influenced the new regime’s shape. When I met President Donald Trump in the Oval Office in November 2018, I gave him a gift: the full writing of Montesquieu in the French Pleiades edition. The President looked quite surprised, checked the book, and told me: “Oh yes, separation of powers!”
SUCH: Is there one historic event we can reference and draw from to help remedy and bring about new solutions? What historic event would that be?
BRIARD: Well, I think of the French “Fête de la Fédération,” which gathered 100,000 French people on July 14, 1790, one year after the storming of the Bastille. Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, was the great architect of the ceremony. That celebration was an ode to reconciliation, unity, liberty, and constitutional stability. It occurred in a very specific French context and a very different world from today. But the values it carried remain accurate to me. We need peacemakers, meek and good makers.
SUCH: What does being noble in the 21st Century mean?
BRIARD: Noble in the common French language means being an aristocrat, i.e., descending from an aristocratic family. As you know, aristoi comes from ancient Greek, meaning the best, noble character, and right nature; the French aristocrats did represent, until 1789, the very best of our society, and often they were, especially among the military. However, that social class died from having too many privileges and not following the modern rule of equality under the law.
Now, being “noble” in my eyes means being generous, loving, acting for good, and giving to others. When I was young, I wrote about elevation and behaving in the most elevated way. Human nobility is elevation and dignity.
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