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Polish High Court to be Gutted

Chief justice and other judges could be forced to retire unless the EU can derail a divisive new law.

3 July 2018

The long-running spat between Western Europe’s EU brass and the Polish government has taken another turn for the worse.

 

The European Commission issued a warning on Monday about the overhaul of Poland’s Supreme Court, Bloomberg reports.

 

A controversial law that takes effect today will force the court’s president and some two dozen justices to retire, as they are older than 65.

 

The Guardian reports that the new law, proposed the by ruling, nationalist Law & Justice Party, will be challenged by the EU in the European Court of Justice.

 

In December the Commission launched a proceeding against Poland that could eventually see it try to strip the country of its voting rights, although that is unlikely to happen as such a measure requires unanimous consent from all EU members.

 

Poland is facing internal and external pressure to scrap the court retirement law, with rallies of concerned Polish citizens planned for today, and continued condemnation from the EU. The New York Times reports that two-fifths of the 72 Supreme Court justices are due to take mandatory retirement today.

 

The Commission said the legislation does not uphold the values of the bloc and that “these measures undermine the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges.”

 

The government will have one month to respond to the Commission complaint. It may be forced to stop retiring judges until the EU court issues a ruling, according to The Guardian.

 

Law & Justice argues the judicial clear-out is a long overdue coming to terms with a corrupt system that does not serve the common good.

 

Some of the justices facing mandatory retirement have asked President Andrzej Duda to allow them to continue working, but Supreme Court President Malgorzata Gersdorf (pictured) has refused to do so.

 

Gersdorf said the law violates the constitutional guarantees that “judges shall be appointed for an indefinite period” and “shall not be removable,” Radio Poland reports.

 

 

  • Supreme Court justices issued a unanimous resolution 28 June that the constitution permits Gersdorf to serve as the court’s president until her term expires in 2020, Politico writes. In a separate resolution, they said the law was “an obvious violation by the legislative authority of one of the fundamental guarantees of independence of the judiciary and will soon significantly disrupt the normal functioning of the Supreme Court.”

 

  • Poland will water down a contentious law that laid down criminal penalties for anyone who implicates Poles in the Nazi Holocaust. As The Independent reports, the United States and Israel successfully pressured the government to moderate the law.

Compiled by Tyler Haughn

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