Advisor to the EU Court: Poland treats judges against EU law | KTAB
WARSAW, Poland (AP) – A senior EU legal adviser argued on Thursday that Poland’s discipline of judges is against EU law – an opinion the Polish government has denounced as an attack on political motivation against the sovereignty of the country.
These are the latest developments in a nearly six-year dispute between the 27-nation bloc and the ruling conservative and populist party in Poland, which has reshaped the country’s judicial system to give the ruling authorities new powers over it. .
The ruling party, Law and Justice, claims it seeks to reform an inefficient system and corrupt judges, but critics see it as a pretext to take control of the courts.
Law and Justice created in 2017 a new body – the Disciplinary Chamber – at the Supreme Court with the power to discipline both high-level judges and ordinary court judges.
Many judges and lawyers allege that the chamber is used to pressure judges to render decisions favorable to the authorities in power. To this day, as the party has taken control of high courts and major judicial bodies, many lower court judges continue to assert their independence. Some have ruled against government officials or interests.
Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev has recommended that the European Court of Justice – the highest court in the EU – rule that the disciplinary chamber of the Supreme Court does not comply with EU law.
Tanchev argued that disciplinary proceedings against judges could create a “chilling effect” on other judges. He noted that the content of court decisions can be treated as a disciplinary offense.
He said that “the mere prospect of a national judge being the subject of disciplinary proceedings” strikes “at the very foundations of the Union itself”.
These legal opinions are not legally binding but are often followed by the court. The judges of the European Court are starting their deliberations in this case and a judgment is expected later this year.
In Warsaw, Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta denounced public opinion as a “political theater of double standards” against Poland. He alleged that the “attack on Poland” was carried out by an ally of ex-Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a sharp critic of the current government.
“We can see that the elite in Brussels are trying to interfere with Poland’s systemic sovereignty in the area of justice,” Kaleta told reporters.
The European Commission, which ensures compliance with EU law by the 27 countries of the bloc, has filed a complaint with the Court of Justice on this issue. She considers that the independence and impartiality of the Polish Disciplinary Chamber cannot be guaranteed.
The chamber is composed of judges chosen by the National Council of the Judiciary, a body whose members are chosen by the parliament, where Law and Justice holds the majority.
News of Tanchev’s opinion arrived in Warsaw as lawyers and others gathered outside the Supreme Court as the disciplinary chamber considered a judge’s case.
Michal Wawrykiewicz, a lawyer for Free Courts, a group fighting for judicial independence, delivered a message in English.
“Dear judges of the European Court of Justice, listen to the voices of Polish lawyers, of citizens, who are horrified by the destruction of the rule of law in Poland,” said Wawrykiewicz. “We are doing everything in our power. Help us restore European standards for an independent judiciary in Poland. Now it’s your turn.”