Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) has been working assiduously to forge a politically subservient judiciary since 2017, when it first passed legislation to purge certain judges and install others favorable to its policies. These policies have been regularly condemned by Poland’s neighbors, and have already led to lawsuits. Now the EU is taking the next step: suing the Polish state in the European Court of Justice, arguing that the most recent round of changes to the Polish legal system undermine judicial independence.
Deutsche Welle explains:
At issue is the Polish law affecting the judiciary that came into force in February last year.
It prevents judges from referring questions of law to the ECJ. It also created a body that rules on judges’ independence without regard to EU law.
The bill also oversaw the creation of a “disciplinary chamber” to oversee Polish supreme court judges. This chamber — criticized for its close ties to the government — has the power to lift their immunity, allowing for judges to face criminal proceedings or cuts to their salaries.
One judge, Igor Tuleya, faced suspension and a 25% salary cut in November. He was among the justices to resist the changes to the legal system.
The Commission wants the ECJ to suspend the 2019 law as well as the disciplinary chamber and the decisions it has made concerning judges’ immunity, “to prevent the aggravation of serious and irreparable harm inflicted to judicial independence and the EU legal order.”
Poland has denied any breach of judicial independence, and challenges the EU’s power to regulate its internal judicial affairs.
Another chapter in a distressing saga.