Poland’s MPs pick controversial judges 

Poland’s MPs pick controversial judges 

Poland’s parliament has elected three judges nominated by the ruling party to the Constitutional Tribunal, raising concerns about judicial independence.

The court’s duties include verifying that federal legislation is constitutional.

MPs voted for the judges during a heated Thursday session amid angry condemnation by the opposition. President Andrzej Duda, who is allied with the ruling party, must swear the three nominees in.

The most controversial of the three appointees is Stanislaw Piotrowicz, a former communist-era state prosecutor and the drafter of divisive legislation for the Law and Justice party (PiS) government over the past four years. Piotrowicz lost his parliamentary seat in last month’s general election. 

He spearheaded the judicial reforms in Poland that have been criticised by the European Union for undermining the rule of law. Changes have included alterations to the body responsible for protecting judicial independence and setting up a new disciplinary system.  

The PiS judicial changes have sparked protests and condemnation from the European Commission amid fears they pose a threat to democracy.

Piotrowicz has been criticised for appearing to protect a priest found guilty of child sexual abuse. 

Another nominee, Krystyna Pawlowicz, is another former MP whose far-right politics once pushed PiS to suggest she should leave politics. Both appointments are 67 while the retirement age for judges is 65. 

Michal Szczerba of the opposition Civic Platform party said the judicial nominees did not meet “the criterion of impeccable character”.

The opposition party did not present any candidates of its own because it considers the nominations illegal. 

Poland’s ombudsman, Adam Bodnar, said the appointments were a “clear breach of the statutory provision”. 

The third judge, Jakub Stelina, a legal academic from the University of Gdansk, was nominated only hours before the parliamentary vote. The fact that PiS politicians were getting Stelina’s name wrong suggested he was selected in a rush. 

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of the PiS defended Piotrowicz this week, saying he “behaved decently” when he acted as state prosecutor during the communist rule.

But PiS has repeatedly claimed its judicial reforms are moves to purge communist-era corruption exposing the populist party to allegations of hypocrisy and a power grab. 

“Neoliberals have fuelled a sense of confusion in our value system. Many people were led to believe that the state is a ball and chain,” he said in a policy speech last month. “Extremes are not good. We are building a normal state.”

 

Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

 

 

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