The disciplinary regime introduced by Warsaw infringes judicial independence, advising the EU’s main judicial states.
The European Court of Justice should rule that the measures introduced by the Law and Justice Police Party (PiS) to discipline judges contradict the laws of the bloc, according to a judicial adviser before the final ruling. publish in the coming months.
In an opinion on Thursday, Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev recommended that the European Court of Justice (CJEU) rule that the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court does not comply with EU law.
The development was the latest in an ongoing dispute between the 27-member bloc and the populist and conservative party, which has reshaped Poland’s judicial system since it came to power in 2015 to give authorities new powers over the courts.
PiS has defended his movements, saying he wants to reform an inefficient and corrupt justice system. Critics, however, see this as a pretext for the party taking control of the country’s courts.
In 2017, he created a body — the Disciplinary Chamber — in the Supreme Court of Poland with the power to discipline judges, including those in lower courts.
Many judges in the country fear that the chamber will be a tool to pressure judges to issue rulings that favor ruling authorities.
Although PiS has taken control of the higher courts, many lower court judges continue to show their independence, with some ruling against government officials or interests.
Tanchev also said Poland’s new general definition of disciplinary offenses had a “creepy effect” among judges on weakening its protections and independence.
These legal opinions are not legally binding, but are often followed by the ECJ. EU High Court judges are now beginning their deliberations on the case and a verdict is expected later this year.
“Destruction of the rule of law in Poland”
The European Commission, which ensures that member states comply with EU law, has lodged a complaint with the ECJ on the issue. He considers that the independence and impartiality of the Disciplinary Chamber cannot be guaranteed.
The Luxembourg-based ECJ has already ordered the suspension of the Disciplinary Chamber pending a final ruling on whether it offers sufficient guarantees of judicial independence. However, the chamber has continued to work despite the ruling.
The chamber is made up of judges selected by the National Council of the Judiciary, a body whose members are elected by parliament, where PiS has a majority.
News of Tanchev’s opinion reached Warsaw when lawyers and others gathered in front of the Supreme Court while the Disciplinary Chamber was hearing a judge’s case.
Michal Wawrykiewicz, a lawyer for Free Courts, a group fighting for judicial independence, sent a message in English to television cameras.
“Dear judges of the European Court of Justice, listen to the voices of Polish lawyers, citizens, horrified by the destruction of the rule of law in Poland,” said Wawrykiewicz.
“We’re doing everything in our power,” he said. “Help us restore the European standards of an independent judiciary in Poland. Now it’s your turn. “
Meanwhile, Poland’s Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta accused the EU of “double standards” and Tanchev of spreading “lies” in an attempt to block the review of justice in Warsaw.