Poland Ignores Supreme Court and EU With New Curbs on Judges

(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s government plans to place new restrictions on judges, ignoring concerns by the European Union and its own Supreme Court that it’s eroding the rule of law.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told Gazeta Polska newspaper Wednesday that his cabinet is analyzing regulations to ban judges from engaging in political activities or opposing the government. The plan escalates a stand-off over whether the ruling party is thwarting EU values. It prompted an open letter from rights advocates calling for the bloc’s executive to take urgent action.

The comments come a day after the bloc’s executive discussed democratic backsliding in member states including Poland and Hungary. The country’s Supreme Court also warned this week that the government’s failure to abide to its binding court rulings posed a “serious threat to the stability of the legal order.”

“The leaders of judges’ protests in Poland would have serious problems in further work in their fields” in countries such as France and Germany, Morawiecki was quoted as saying. “With all my strength I can say that we will continue reforming the judicial system.”

‘Broken Down’

The open letter, signed by academics and NGOs focused on judicial issues and wider human rights, said Polish judges were “subject to harassment tactics in the form of multiple arbitrary disciplinary investigations, formal disciplinary proceedings and/or sanctions for applying EU law” or questioning contested overhauls with the European Court of Justice, the bloc’s highest tribunal.

“The time has come to accept we are facing a situation in which EU law has broken down,” the signees said in the letter. “Interim measures are called for before the situation gets worse and irreparable damage is done.”

Following a verdict by the EU’s top tribunal last month, Poland’s Supreme Court ruled that the influential judicial body tasked with deciding which judges are promoted -- and which appointed jurists to a new body to discipline justices -- isn’t independent of politics following overhauls of the courts.

It said the disciplinary chamber wasn’t a legal court and told the so-called Judicial Council to halt its work because its decisions, as well as those of the judges it appointed, may be legally dubious, causing chaos. But the government has rejected the Supreme Court’s binding verdict.

“The fact that someone happened to rule that this is not a court does not mean that someone should decide whether it will adjudicate or not,” Deputy Justice Minister Michal Wojcik told Polsat television. “The disciplinary chamber will continue working.”

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