Top Polish judges vow to fight PiS

Top Polish judges vow to fight PiS

Poland supreme court’s leading judge says she will resist a controversial new law that forces judges aged over 65 to resign.

“I consider myself supreme court president until 2020,” Małgorzata Gersdorf, 65, the first president of the high court, told broadcaster TVN24.

This week’s law lowers the age of retirement from 70, forcing out nearly 40 per cent of the supreme court’s 72 judges. Gersdorf began her six-year term in 2014.

“It is a sad day,” she said in a speech in Warsaw. “It ends an epoch of the judiciary and the supreme court and their organisational independence and competence.”

For years, Law and Justice party (PiS) has demonised judges as unreconstructed communists blocking its legislation. The nationalist party took control of the Constitutional Tribunal, which ensures laws do not violate the constitution and gave authority of the prosecution service to the Ministry of Justice. It recently took the powers to select judges and those justices who have recently spoken out against the changes have reported being harassed and intimidated.

Other supreme court judges have said they would back Gersdorf in rejecting the new measure and are all planning to return to work today (Wednesday), setting up a clash with PiS. 

They say the law was aimed at certain judges and had little to do with age, especially as PiS recently named Gersdorf’s replacement as the judge Jozef Iwulski, who is a year older at 66. 

This week European Commission launched infringement proceedings against Poland, saying the PiS measures “undermine the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges”. 

Brussels said this week that a so-called infringement procedure had been opened against Poland, which could result in the matter being referred to the European Court of Justice. The court could declare the judicial legislation unconstitutional and impose fines. 

Protesters were due to support the judges when they arrive at the court in Warsaw, said Maia Mazurkiewicz, a communications manager for European Front, a coalition of pro-Brussels groups.

She said around 60 other protests would be held across the country.

“We, the Polish civil society, believe that we need to stand strong with the judges of the supreme court to protect an independent judiciary and free courts,” she told the media. 

The legislation prompted the European Commission in December to launch sanctions under Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union, one of the EU’s founding documents.


Poland’s supreme court. Picture credit: Flickr

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