As many as 1759 judges and prosecutors are defending Judge Knobel, who is being attacked for her judgment regarding the protest in the church
This is a great campaign in defence of Judge Joanna Knobel, who acquitted 32 people protesting in Poznań cathedral. The right wing, Minister Ziobro and the neo-NCJ attacked the judge for this judgment. But she is being fully backed by judges and lawyers throughout Poland, who signed a letter in her defence.
This is one of the biggest campaigns by Polish judges and prosecutors, and a strong voice from this community against the smear campaign against Judge Joanna Knobel of the District Court in Poznań-Nowe Miasto and Wilda (pictured above). The letter in her defence was signed in less than two days by 111 judges of the Regional Court in Poznań, 1,425 judges from the whole of Poland, including several dozen Supreme Court judges and Supreme Administrative Court judges, 224 prosecutors and 59 lawyers, mainly from Poznań. A total of 1818 people signed the letter. All the signatures, together with the letter in defence of the judge, are presented in the article below.
On Monday, 13 March 2023, Judge Joanna Knobel acquitted the people who protested in October 2020 in Poznań Cathedral against the ruling of Przyłębska’s Constitutional Tribunal tightening the abortion law. The protesters stood in front of the altar. They held banners, scattered leaflets and clapped. The priest stopped the mass, the police stepped in.
The prosecutor’s office filed an indictment for the obstruction of the performance of a religious act. Thirty-two people were sitting on the defendant’s bench and, as Journalist Piotr Żytnicki of Gazeta Wyborcza wrote, this was the largest trial for peaceful protests under the PiS government.
On Monday, 13 March, Judge Knobel passed judgment acquitting the protesters. She ruled that they had disrupted the mass, but that they had valid reasons and were not acting maliciously. The court ruled that this was their protest against the Church’s interference in their lives and against the ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal.
The judge was attacked for this by right-wing columnists and Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro, while the chair of the neo-NCJ, Dagmara Pawełczyk-Woicka, attacked the judge on Wednesday, 15 March. Although this body is supposed to defend judges, its head posted a letter online to the president of the Regional Court in Poznań. She suggested that he should send Judge Knobel for training on the Constitution, in particular on the protection of a religious cult.
This letter outraged judges throughout Poland. Because Pawelczyk-Woicka, whose career is blooming under the current government, encroached on the judge’s independence and impartiality. That same day, the idea of a letter in defence of Joanna Knobel was raised at the Regional Court in Poznań. ‘The position of the NCJ caused a great deal of agitation and we started to think about what we could do. And that’s how the idea of a letter in defence of Judge Knobel arose,’ Judge Małgorzata Wiśniewska of the Regional Court in Poznań tells us.
Signatures were being collected up to 12 noon on Friday 17 March, namely in less than two days. And 1817 judges, prosecutors, academics and other lawyers signed the letter. Importantly, the president of the Regional Court in Poznań, Krzysztof Lewandowski, to whom the head of the neo-NCJ had made the appeal for training, also signed the letter in defence of the judge. It was also signed, among others, by:
- Former president of the legal Constitutional Tribunal and CJEU, Judge Professor Marek Safjan, retired judge of the legal Constitutional Tribunal, Professor Ewa Łętowska and retired judge of the Constitutional Tribunal and former head of the National Electoral Commission, Wojciech Hermeliński.
- 35 Supreme Court judges, including the president of the Labour and Social Insurance Chamber of the Supreme Court, Piotr Prusinowski, the president of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, Michał Laskowski and Professor Włodzimierz Wróbel.
- The president of the association of independent prosecutors, Lex Super Omnia, Katarzyna Kwiatkowska.
We have posted all the signatures at the end of the article.
How the judges stand up for the rule of law and the repressed
The support for Judge Knobel is huge, all the more so that such a number of signatures were collected in less than two days. This shows that judges and a large group of independent prosecutors will defend the independence of the courts. Furthermore, this is already another major campaign by the judges – with the support of the prosecutors – in connection with the defence of the rule of law and repressed judges.
The biggest was the historic appeal to the authorities to implement the CJEU rulings of 14 and 15 July 2021, in which the legality of the Disciplinary Chamber was contested. That appeal was signed by 3843 judges and 376 prosecutors. OKO.press posted all the names.
In turn, 1278 judges signed a letter to the OSCE in April 2020 to monitor the postal presidential elections, which were to be held in the middle of the epidemic. All the signatures are here:
A letter in defence of three appeal court judges in Warsaw who were transferred on disciplinary charges also received a huge amount of support. They are Marzanna Piekarska-Drążek, Ewa Gregajtys and Ewa Leszczyńska-Furtak. The court president, Piotr Schab, and his deputy, Przemyslaw Radzik, transferred the judges from the criminal division to the labour division in August 2022 for enforcing the rulings of the ECtHR and the CJEU.
1507 judges and 159 prosecutors signed a letter in their defence. All the signatures are here:
The Themis association of judges and the Presidium of the Forum for Cooperation of Judges have also taken stances in defence of Judge Knobel. They can be found here:
Appeal in defence of Judge Joanna Knobel
Below is the letter in defence of Judge Knobel and all the signatures of judges, prosecutors and other lawyers. The list is arranged in the order in which they were submitted.
‘POSITION OF THE JUDGES OF THE REGIONAL COURT IN POZNAŃ IN CONNECTION WITH LETTER NO. WO 072.9.2023 OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF THE JUDICIARY, ADDRESSED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REGIONAL COURT IN POZNAŃ REGARDING JOANNA KNOBEL OF THE DISTRICT COURT IN POZNAŃ IN CONNECTION WITH HER JUDGMENT OF 13 MARCH 2023
‘The judges of the Regional Court in Poznań express their adamant protest against the illegal attempts to put pressure on the Regional Court contained in the letter of ref. no. WO 072.9.2023 of the National Council of the Judiciary, addressed to the President of the Regional Court in Poznań, containing suggestions to ‘retrain’ District Court Judge Joanna Knobel from the District Court for Poznań-Nowe Miasto and Wilda in Poznań in connection with her judgment regarding the events in Poznań Cathedral.
The arrogant tone of that letter, which was addressed to a person who is not Judge Joanna Knobel’s direct superior, but who is in charge of a court with geographical and substantive jurisdiction to hear appeals against judgments made in the District Court in which Ms Knobel adjudicates, which has the jurisdiction to hear a possible appeal against the said judgment, clearly indicates that the body headed by the author of the letter has nothing to do with the institution referred to in Article 186, para. 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland [the provision states that the NCJ safeguards the independence of the courts and judges – ed.].
Simultaneously, further to the unprecedented campaign of hate speech pursued by some media – which are also financed with our taxes – which are targeted personally at the Judge in connection with her judgment and fuelled by the Minister of Justice, we want to assure her of our support in this difficult time for her.
We would like to strongly emphasise that, regardless of how anyone assesses the judgment in this or any other case, which will be reviewed by the court of appeal and which, like any other, may be subject to public judgment, it was nevertheless passed by an independent court, while judicial independence, understood as a state in which the judge decides on the case being subject exclusively to the law and not to any pressure, especially from the executive, is the last element that distinguishes our country from a dictatorship. We appeal for this value, which the Judge has guarded in the performance of her duties, to be respected.’
List of signatures
A. Judges of the Regional Court in Poznań:
111 judges and retired judges
B. The position of the Judges of the Regional Court in Poznań is also supported by the following judges:
1424 judges and retired judges from the whole of Poland
C. The position of the Judges of the Regional Court in Poznań is also supported by the following Prosecutors:
224 prosecutors from the whole of Poland
D. The position of the Judges of the Regional Court in Poznań is also supported by:
59 lawyers and other people from the whole of Poland and abroad
Translated by Roman Wojtasz
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