A reflection on Dominique Warluzel’s career as a lawyer

Dominique Warluzel, a young talent in criminal law

Although he dreamed of being an actor, Dominique Warluzel decided to go for a career in law, which he has achieved brilliantly.

Apprenticeship alongside Dominique Poncet

Having just obtained his law degree, Dominique Warluzel became the articled clerk and university assistant of the most prestigious of Geneva lawyers: Professor Dominique Poncet. An emblematic figure in Swiss law, lawyer, teacher and legal expert, he joined the bars of Geneva, Zurich, London and Washington D.C. He dealt with famous cases such as Trujillo, Bhutto and Duvalier and defended the former national adviser Dominique Ducret in the BCGE case.

Dominique Poncet, who died in 2016, was a role-model for Dominique Warluzel. “It might seem paradoxical, but I didn’t want to be a lawyer”, he explains, touching on his beginnings. The authority of his elders allowed him to get back onto the right road, however, and to accept the established order. While he was still only an articled clerk, the young lawyer pleaded in the Assizes eight times.

Law degree at the age of 23

When they were 18, Dominique Warluzel and his friend Christophe Lambert dreamed of being stage actors, an idea which was not greatly pleasing to their respective families, who decided to separate them. So, the two friends left their home area of Suisse Romande. Christophe Lambert went to Paris and Dominique Warluzel was sent to Nice, where he was advised to get on with some serious studying. He accepted this, on condition that he would be able to do it in Geneva. So, he chose the law. He registered at the University of Geneva, but first of all completed his military service as a tank grenadier.

He had been studying the dramatic arts at the Geneva Conservatoire with Professor Michel Cassagne, a well-known Swiss actor, from the age of 16.

He obtained his diploma at the end of 1980 and, at the age of 23, landed a place as an articled clerk with the distinguished lawyer Dominique Poncet, who would play an influential part in his career.

His first famous trials

Dominique Warluzel obtained his law degree in 1983. People began to talk about his talent as a speaker, as well as his knowledge of psychology. While still working in Dominique Poncet’s practice, the young lawyer was entrusted with the defence of Doctor Medeniça, who had been involved in a case of false hospital bills.

However, his career took a real turn when he defended the kidnapper of the daughter of Frédéric Dard, author of the Commissaire San-Antonio adventures. Joséphine, 13 years old at the time, was abducted in her sleep on 23 March 1983. The kidnapper, a camera operator from the Swiss television team which had come to do a report on the novelist, demanded a ransom of two million francs in exchange for her freedom. The sum was paid, the young girl was freed fifty hours later and the kidnapper was arrested. Although he was himself only 27 years old, Dominique Warluzel acted in his defence. Even though he had very little experience, his submission brought praise from the entire Press and the legal world. The day after his submission, the newspapers reported that “Maître Dominique Warluzel is one of the greatest lawyers in Suisse Romande”. The kidnapper was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment, almost the maximum sentence, but the young lawyer’s talent for persuasion had been recognised by the profession.  Dominique Warluzel obtained a pardon for the convicted man from the Grand Council of Geneva and the sentenced imposed for multiple offences was reduced to 11 years. This pardon was reached with the victim’s agreement.

He then pleaded in other momentous cases, such as the Nicolo case, the Russian princess, that of Lagonico in Lausanne and the Ferrari case where an automobile enthusiast was sued for selling copies of the mythical 250 GTO. His career and professional success had been launched, owed above all to his relentless work and talent.

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You need to be a frequent visitor to the courts as early as possible, at an age where you still have the fire in your blood.

Founding the practice Bonnant Warluzel & Associates

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1980-1991 marked the first period in Dominique Warluzel’s career when he occupied the post of articled clerk, colleague and then associate within the practice of Dominique Poncet. Although his career was in excellent shape, the year 1996 opened a new chapter in his life.

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The lawyer set up a partnership with another personality from the Swiss legal world, Marc Bonnant. A former President of the Geneva Bar, he recognised Dominique Warluzel’s abilities and suggested starting a practice. So, the practice of Bonnant Warluzel & Associates was born. Marc Bonnant is well-known for his submissions as the civic party in cases involving George Ortiz, Frédéric Dard, Edmond Safra, Baron Philippe Lambert and Édouard Stern. He was also lawyer to the Empress of Iran and Souha Arafat. In defence, he is known for his work with the Moudjahidin against the State of Iran or with the ex-wife of the Russian oligarch Dmitri Rybolovlev during their divorce.

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From the time of its creation, Bonnant Warluzel & Associates was an independent practice in Geneva with both local and international clientele. Today, it still has a large network of correspondents in the majority of jurisdictions. At the time, the duo did not pass unnoticed, as the two lawyers have quite contradictory personalities. On the one hand, Marc Bonnant, coming from high society and the defender of controversial leaders, and on the other, Dominique Warluzel, a creature of the media, coming to the aid of his clients through his plain-speaking.

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Within the practice, Dominique Warluzel would in particular defend Carlo Lavizzari, who was acquitted of all charges held against him in the Banque Cantonale de Genève case. He would also plead in Lausanne in the Stéphane Lagonico case, a young lawyer from the Vaud region, kidnapped by another son of a wealthy family.

Dominique Warluzel, lawyer to the stars

 

Even though he was enjoying a brilliant career as a lawyer, Dominique Warluzel did not at all give up on his young boy’s dream: to enter the world of television and cinema. Although not setting foot on the red carpet himself, he would approach the art world through his profession.

In 1989, he became “lawyer to the stars” defending personalities from French cinema such as Isabelle Adjani, Christophe Lambert, Henri Verneuil, Mireille Darc, David Hallyday and Alain Delon. They all became friends, much more than clients. Over the years, he has acquired the knowledge to better support such artists.

He advises them regarding their intellectual property rights or on a Swiss tax regime which consists in calculating tax based solely on lifestyle. The aim of the regime is to use a fixed annual amount of tax as a basis, calculated on lifestyle and not on wealth or income, advice which allowed David Hallyday to set up home in Geneva years before his father moved to Gstaad. The Bonnant & Associates practice still welcomes stars from France who believe they are overtaxed.

In 2005, Dominique Warluzel was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur. He received this distinction on 7 October 2005 from Jean Piat, an honorary member of the Comédie Française.

He can be seen here surrounded by his two friends Antony Delon and Christophe Lambert at the time of this presentation. He has also twice received the Media Prize from the Fédération Suisse des Avocats (FSA) in 1996 and 2010.

Dominique Warluzel has also advised other large fortunes in their departure for Switzerland, such as Prince Victor Emmanuel of Savoie. The lawyer defends himself from accusations from politicians regarding Switzerland’s status as a tax haven. For him, this is “a repetitive, worn-out socialist theme”.

Television presenter and producer

In addition to his knowledge of the world of the arts, Dominique Warluzel himself became a man of television, in parallel with his career as a lawyer. Being a man of the media, he draws attention both in court and in front of the TV camera.

Dominique Warluzel made his debuts as a television presenter in the Suisse Romande region with the programme “Profil de…”, dedicated to drawing a portrait of various personalities, such as his friend Christophe Lambert, Renaud and Alain Delon.

The aim of the programme was to place each guest in various emotional and funny situations from his past and present life.

It was a success and opened the door for him to other programmes in a legal vein:

Justice en marche” [Active Law] with Valérie Bierens de Hahn (24 episodes), “Vérité, vérités” [Truth and Realities] with Bernard Pichon (40 episodes), “Au-delà des grilles” [Beyond Bars] (8 episodes), “Duel” [Duel] (32 episodes) and “L’Étude” [The Practice] (8 episodes) with Béatrice Barton.

Even as a man of television, he did not distance himself from the legal world.

He created and hosted the “Dans mon Cinéma” [In my Cinema] programme broadcast by Radio Télévision Suisse, Orange Cinéma Géants in France and the RTBF in Belgium.

In around fifty minutes, it draws the portrait of an artist in his or her presence.

Personalities such as Alain Delon (2 episodes), Mireille Darc, Claudia Cardinale, Claude Brasseur, Pierre Arditi, Marthe Keller, Christophe Lambert, Nathalie Baye, Robert Hossein, Carole Bouquet, Gérard Jugnot, Anouk Aimée, Guy Marchand, Brigitte Fossey, Thierry Lhermitte, Michel Galabru, Michel Aumont, André Dussollier, Leslie Caron, Pascal Elbé, Tchéky Karyo, Karin Viard and Marie Gillain have taken part in a total 24 episodes.

Dominique Warluzel added another string to his bow, that of a dramatic author with the play “Fratricide”, the Geneva lawyer’s first play, performed 200 times.

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In January 2013, Dominique Warluzel was struck down by a massive stroke which left him paralysed on one side and stood in the way of these various careers. Since this time, he has been working on his physical and neurological rehabilitation.