Paris-1-Panthéon-Sorbonne accused of covering a thesis of convenience

For a few days, the academic world has been in turmoil: the University of Paris-1-Panthéon-Sorbonne, one of the most prestigious in France, is suspected of having covered a thesis of convenience. On February 9, 2020, on condition of anonymity, the Twitter account @These_Synthese, created for the occasion, said that they had access to the thesis of the lawyer and editor Arash Derambarsh, published in 2015, and that they had located there many copy and paste. A thesis which should not be made public, by university decision, until … March 23, 2047! Abnormally long delays that nothing seems to justify.

Entitled "Police files, a legal and societal framework in a controversial context" and defended on December 11, 2015 in Paris-1, this thesis had constituted a gateway to the profession of lawyer for Arash Derambarsh, an editor of editions of the well-known Midi seekers of the Parisian place and its journalists, introduced in many media and political circles. Herald of the fight against food waste, Arash Derambarsh is also a municipal councilor in Courbevoie.

Very present in the press and on television, the politician has illustrated himself several times, in recent years, by resounding hoaxes or fake news. He had thus presented himself as the president of Facebook in 2008 and had asserted in 2016 on a continuous news channel going to school with the Islamist terrorist Reda Kriket, which turned out to be false. All this had earned him a long investigation of Inrocks : "The thousand and one lives of Arash Derambarsh".

The thesis, the only way to become a lawyer

In 2013, after failing the exam twice, the publisher tried to join the legal profession by another means: the bridge decree. These provisions, provided for by law, allow a person to assert his experience as a lawyer and to join the bar without passing the entrance examination. During the hearing, Arash Derambarsh will explain having been, for at least eight years, corporate lawyer with Laffont editions, then of the midi search.

But his arguments do not convince the council of the Paris Bar Association, or even the Court of Appeal, which, in a judgment of May 2014 that we have obtained, concludes: "It turns out that Mr. Derambarsh does not provide with sufficient certainty the evidence that the functions he exercised and still exercises within the two publishing houses of which he relies can be analyzed as being those of a corporate lawyer. "

The council of the order of Paris points out “the lack of relevance of the testimonies produced” and specifies that the elected official of Courbevoie presents himself on his blogs as directing “the political departments and public figures in the editions of Cherche midi”, but not as a corporate lawyer. To become a lawyer, Derambarsh therefore had only one solution: to defend a thesis. According to article 12-1 of the law of 1971 governing the profession, doctors of law have access “directly to theoretical and practical training (…) without having to undergo the examination for access to the regional training center professional lawyers'.

Francis Szpiner and Frédéric Lefebvre for as juror and thesis president

A year later, in 2015, the publisher therefore finds himself defending a thesis at Paris-1 under the supervision of Bruno Dondero, renowned professor of corporate law and lawyer. The president of the jury was Frédéric Lefebvre (former UMP deputy, who himself became a lawyer thanks to a bridge decree), and the jury made up of Bruno Dondero and Francis Szpiner, a Parisian criminal lawyer. Reporters Oleg Curbatov officiated, whose fields of predilection (quantum interpretations of marketing and study of consumer behavior, in particular) appear far from the research subject of Derambarsh (police files), as well as Anne-Dominique Merville, specialist in financial law, now deputy prosecutor.

And it is indeed this thesis, on which important names of the bar, politics and the judiciary have studied, which poses the problem today. According to extracts quoted by the Twitter account @These_Synthese, the copy-paste appears glaring, as Point was able to verify it. Thus page 13 constitutes a copy-paste of the university work of a foreign student dated 2008, without the use of quotation marks and without being cited.

Idem, a little further, concerning the reproduction of paragraphs from a report by criminologist Alain Bauer; or another of the Dalloz relating to the processing of criminal records (TAJ). In their research work, doctoral students should normally use quotes for short citations and cite their sources. For longer versions, the quoted extracts must appear behind the main text and in another font. None of these precautions are taken here.

"I have the whole thesis for you"

"I have the whole thesis at your disposal, not just scraps coming out five weeks from the elections," says Arash Derambarsh, speaking of "stinking balls" on the eve of the municipal deadline (he is not the list), and initiating the anonymous account at the origin of the revelations. "What is plagiarism?" It is the act of reclaiming texts and posing as the author. This is completely false as far as I am concerned, ”he maintains.

Arash Derambarsh concedes "technical errors", which the jury asked him to "update", which he says he did. However, these corrections do not appear in the version that we were able to consult. So an article from Figaro dated March 11, 2012 and devoted to a new software for writing criminal proceedings, is it plundered for the most part, down to the word, and without any mention of its author or the newspaper! (see below).

Originally blocked from reading until 2047, this thesis was the subject of lively discussions in early 2019 between Paris-1 and law professors from several French universities, demanding its publicity. Panthéon-Sorbonne had finally agreed to a very limited publicity in April 2019. This is how the Twitter account @These_Synthese explains that it could only consult a digital version available on two dedicated computer workstations, in Paris, at the interuniversity library Cujas, without possibility of printing or researching the document. We would like to bury this thesis that we would not do it better…

A confidential thesis for vague reasons

Why so many mysteries? After denying that his thesis could have been confidential, Arash Derambarsh explains today that it contained "secret-defense" elements, the author having had access to sensitive data from the Directorate General of the National Police (DGPN) . "I accessed data from the Interior Ministry," he swears. Before clarifying: “It was my thesis jurors who decided that (confidentiality, note). "

A version firmly denied by his thesis director, Bruno Dondero: “It was never a decision of the jury. I, for my part, was very surprised to discover this confidentiality clause. For the rest, the law professor does not wish to speak: "I will not comment on a diploma issued by the university. I would have the same position if I was asked to comment on a student's copy. None of the other members of the thesis jury or the rapporteurs wanted to speak.

The university remains silent

Questioned on Monday and relaunched Tuesday morning, the university had not answered any of our questions at the time of publication of this article. Why was the thesis not scanned by anti-plagiarism software, when Paris-1 has had such a tool since 2012? Who decided on its confidentiality? And why, if it contained sensitive data, as Arash Derambarsh claims, was it not simply redacted in places?

The bibliography of Arash Derambarsh's thesis cites five people in the “Interviews” section. They are the former chief of staff of the director general of the national police (DGPN), his former legal adviser, the journalists Jean-Marc Manach and Camille Polloni, and the former spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior Pierre-Henry Brandet. But none of these five names appears elsewhere in the thesis than in the bibliography!

Contacted, Pierre-Henry Brandet confides his astonishment: "If I saw him, it was in a professional context, and I only provided him with the official positions of the ministry on the police files, nothing more. I have not read his thesis. But if my name only served as a bond, it would not be acceptable. Camille Polloni, she found traces in her emails of a coffee taken with Arash Derambarsh in August 2013. They had briefly exchanged, and the journalist, who has been following the theme for years, had sent him links to some articles and relevant reports on the subject. But in no case of data "secret defense" which would have justified the confidentiality of the thesis until 2047.

Anger on social networks

Since the revelations of @These_Synthese, many researchers have expressed their anger. Like this law professor, among the first to be indignant after the defense of Arash Derambarsh's thesis, and who nevertheless wishes to remain anonymous: “We were all convinced that this thesis was bogus. Confidentiality on a legal thesis is a somewhat unique case. No one around me had ever seen this. Then, you never constitute a jury like that: there must always be a majority of academics specializing in the subject. This is far from the case here.

Our source, who works in a large law UFR, continues: "This is the worst blow we can do to people who work seriously on their thesis. To miss it, you must either be careless or an accomplice. There is still a copy and paste of a paragraph that has slipped into the table of contents! "

Alain Bauer to the rescue

To the many academics, lawyers and jurists who get carried away on social networks against what they call a thesis of convenience, Arash Derambarsh replies that he has worked hard to get where he is. Aware that a controversy would break out, the publisher had even taken care, as of January 15, to contact the criminologist Alain Bauer to ensure that he would not prosecute him. “I have the spirit of a lawyer, I foresee bad shots. The criminal lawyer is talking to you, ”says Arash Derambarsh. A lawyer who has fashioned, in a few years, a beautiful address book, to the point of defending celebrities like the musician Pete Doherty or the commentator of football star of Canal + Pierre Menès.

Questioned by Point on the nature of his exchanges with Me Derambarsh, Alain Bauer smiles: “I told him that I had a lot of criticism to make about the referencing of sources. Her thesis suffered from deficiencies and defects. The professor at Cnam believes that the work of Derambarsh should have been reviewed and sifted through anti-plagiarism software. "The thesis is supposed to be original work on a particular subject," he recalls, while considering that the copy-paste made by Derambarsh does not necessarily fall, in his case, from the "deliberate domain of plagiarism". And Alain Bauer to promise that he will not initiate any disciplinary or legal action, as feared by the Paris-1 university: "You know what people say about plagiarism? It is the most beautiful tribute. "

Update, February 12, 2020: Paris-1-Panthéon-Sorbonne answers us

“The University of Paris-1-Panthéon-Sorbonne is particularly vigilant with regard to the quality of the diplomas and other doctorates it issues. If necessary, the university takes all administrative and judicial measures to ensure the preservation of the value and recognition of its diplomas. For information, disciplinary proceedings may not be the subject of publicity and / or disclosure before its end, in accordance with legal provisions. This obligation both preserves the legality of the proceedings in progress and also guarantees respect for the fundamental rights and principles of the person under investigation (presumption of innocence, right to contradictory proceedings, respect for his private life, etc.). "