Marie Gerrienne starts a thesis as FNRS Research fellow

Court rulings and overindebtedness

Marie Gerrienne, a researcher in the CRIS research group at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Liège, has just been awarded an FNRS (Fonds National pour la Recherche Scientifique) grant to carry out a thesis project with Professor Christophe Dubois as promoter.

Marie Gerrienne's thesis project, submitted to the FNRS, is entitled "Analysis of judges' decision-making practices: the case of collective debt settlement (CSD) in Belgian labor courts". Specifically, the thesis will combine three methodological devices (in-depth interviews, in situ observations and case law analysis) to shed light on the decision-making processes that shape collective debt settlement, and their practical implications.

Indeed, the right to lead a life of human dignity is the cornerstone of the RCD law. Yet this principle remains unclear and sometimes controversial, particularly as regards its operationality. How is a principle whose definition varies mobilized by judges faced with singular situations? How can decisions directly affecting the lives of over-indebted people be taken by reference to a law whose objective is so abstract? One aspect of the project is therefore to investigate the concrete dimensions of the principle of human dignity, as well as its interpretation by judges.

The procedure also involves debt mediators, appointed by the court and acting under its supervision. These are usually lawyers and social workers. As a result, employment tribunals cooperate with other organizations, mainly law firms and OCMWs, which help shape the decision-making processes of these jurisdictions.


Genesis of the project

Marie Gerrienne holds a Master's degree in Sociology (FaSS, ULiège).

During my Master 2 internship at the Centre de Recherche et d'Interventions Sociologiques (CRIS-ULiège), I became interested in the way overindebtedness is managed in Belgium, and more specifically in the collective debt settlement procedure (RCD). This procedure, which falls under the jurisdiction of the labor courts, enables over-indebted individuals to repay their debts as far as possible, while guaranteeing respect for their human dignity.

Following on from my internship, the aim of my dissertation was to study how these cases of over-indebted individuals are dealt with in industrial tribunals. My focus was on how the organizational, budgetary, legal and moral considerations of the RCD interveners are articulated in the case management process, particularly in relation to the objective of guaranteeing human dignity.



Marie Gerrienne's dissertation gave rise to an article published in the Journal des Tribunaux du Travail :

Gerrienne, M., & Dubois, C. (2023). Du principe à la norme: la dignité humaine dans le règlement collectif de dettes. Journal des Tribunaux du Travail, 1458(14), 229-233.

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