“Justice palace,” this is how French call courthouses. The junior high/high school I attended for 6 years from ages 12 to 18 was located in the centre of Nantes, stuck between the main courthouse, the police station and the jail where suspects were held by the police before their trial. The Banque de France was in a nearby street and the back of the building was facing our schoolyard. Many of us joked that we should just find a way to the Banque de France and lay hands on a few thousand crisp banknotes. Tales of digging tunnels to the bank kept us busy at recess. But at the same time, the perspective of getting caught and to visit (in that order) the police station, the courthouse and the jail, prevented us of doing anything.
Now, the old-fashioned courthouse is closed and a brand new one was built in another location, on the bank of the Loire River. The building, a huge black cube, is very controversial. Many saw in it the sign that France was turning more repressive and was not living up to its “liberté, égalité, fraternité” ideals. The general consensus was that a courthouse should not look like a jail.