Will Polish judges be penalised for speaking out against their government?

In Poland, a law has been proposed allowing the punishment and firing of judges who criticise the restrictions that their government places on the courts.

This proposed law would even apply to judges who are carrying out judgements on the EU Court of Justice. “Political interference with the judiciary bears all the hallmarks of an authoritarian government, striking at the heart of rule of law and human rights protections,” said Lydia Gall, Balkan and Eastern EU senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Gall continued: “The president should shut down the government’s efforts to further erode the independence of the courts, attacking judges, and abide by EU court rulings.”

Adopted by the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, this law penalises and in some cases, can result in the firing of judges with legitimate criticisms of the ruling party, the Law and Justice Party.

“In reference to the ruling… it should be clearly stated that the continuation of the Disciplinary Chamber’s activities constitutes a serious threat to the stability of the legal order in Poland,” The Chief Justice of Poland’s Supreme Court, Małgorzata Gersdorf, wrote in a statement.

The President’s spokesman Błażej Spychalski, has made his opposition of this appeal very clear. Spychalski said: “The Constitutional Tribunal is the only court in our country that can verify whether the law in Poland is in conformity with the constitution or not. The judgment of three judges of the Supreme Court does not have such an attribute.

“It was very important to us that the Disciplinary Chamber in the Supreme Court functioned. It was a common social expectation.”

The law was created in response to a ruling by the EU Court of Justice and the Polish Supreme Court with respect to disciplinary measures against sitting judges. In the November of 2019, the EU Court of Justice outlined legitimate doubt about the independence of the members of the new disciplinary chamber of the Supreme Court. This ruling allowed the Polish court system to determine the independence of the disciplinary chamber and the National Council of the Judiciary.

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