Poland Suffers Court Setback Over Move to Discipline Judges
(Bloomberg) -- Poland suffered a setback in yet another European Union court clash over the government’s sweeping reforms to its judicial systems, focusing this time on a controversial disciplinary regime for judges.
The Polish legislation in question “is contrary to EU law,” Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev of the EU Court of Justice said in a non-binding opinion on Thursday.
The European Commission sued Poland in October 2019 over concerns the nation’s new measures wouldn’t protect judges from political control. The EU’s top court six months later backed the EU’s request for interim measures, ordering Poland to “immediately suspend” the regime.
The Polish government has since ignored the instruction and the disciplinary chamber continues to rule on cases against judges who have spoken out against reforms.
The EU’s Brussels-based executive authority has repeatedly sued Poland for undermining the bloc’s rule of law and democratic standards. Poland still hasn’t complied with the court’s 2020 order, leading to repeated calls by the EU to do so and a new commission lawsuit at the bloc’s top court in March.
“Other countries are allowed to make their own decisions, and the Poles are not,” Polish Deputy Justice Minister Michal Wojcik said in response to the opinion.
Poland’s government has said its measures serve to reform an inefficient court system and told the EU to stay out of its internal affairs. It’s introduced a new law that critics say boosts penalties for judges who question the validity of government reforms, saying it’s a measure to frighten and muzzle opponents.
The court’s opinion comes on a day that the Disciplinary Chamber in Warsaw convenes to discuss removing the immunity of Supreme Court Judge Wlodzimierz Wrobel, a critic of the government’s justice-system overhauls.
The state prosecutors want Wroblel’s immunity lifted so they can charge him with depriving a person of liberty, a crime that carries a jail term of as long as 10 years, after an administrative error by Supreme Court clerks led to a man spending an additional month under arrest. The Supreme Court President said the case was a secretarial oversight for which employees have been punished.
The case is: C-791/19, Commission v. Poland.
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