Attack of the disciplinary commissioners on Judge Żurek. ‘They are ridiculing themselves’
Judge Waldemar Żurek heard as many as 64 disciplinary charges today from Disciplinary Commissioners Piotr Schab and Michał Lasota. They are also not ruling out notifying the public prosecutor’s office because they claim that Żurek committed a ‘falsification of judgments’. This applies to the dates on some of the court’s decisions being the same as the dates on which Żurek was present at NCJ meetings in Warsaw. Meanwhile, he adjudicates in Kraków.
by Magdalena Gałczyńska
- ‘They are pursuing the classic Soviet principle: “we have Żurek, we just need to find a paragraph on him”,’ Judge Żurek himself tells Onet.
- The commissioners charged Judge Żurek with 64 counts of disciplinary offences. However, during the conference, it transpired that this applied to only about 10 judgments; the remaining matters were court decisions, namely decisions of lesser importance.
- The commissioners did not answer the question of whether the invalidity of a given judgment could arise from its incorrect date. They also did not state whether anyone was injured because of the entry of this potentially incorrect date.
- The investigation is being handled by Deputy Disciplinary Commissioner Michał Lasota. According to Onet and OKO.press, he was a member of the Kasta/Antykasta group on WhatsApp, where the participants of the discussions were, on several occasions, planning ways of harming Judge Żurek, who is fighting for the independence of the courts.
- It was precisely Lasota who was supposed to have enthusiastically accepted Łukasz Piebiak’s order issued on the group, to ‘smash a Caste member’. The participants of Kasta/Antykasta referred to judges who are critical of the changes implemented by the United Right as ‘kaściak’ [caste member].
Judge Waldemar Żurek of the Regional Court in Kraków is a former press officer of the last National Council of the Judiciary, which was elected apolitically. The ruling party interrupted the term of office of this NCJ in 2018. Judge Żurek is one of the more widely known defenders of judicial independence. And it is precisely him that the authorities want to discredit at any cost. The judge already has around 20 disciplinary or clarification proceedings – including for teaching children about the Constitution, he has been investigated by the Central Anticorruption Bureau and the services have raided his wife’s and parents’ homes.
The campaign to find dirt on him in the files of old cases has been in progress since last year. It was then, in the spring of 2021, that Deputy Disciplinary Commissioner Michał Lasota requested files on 122 cases from 2012–2018, when Żurek was a member of the NCJ, from Żurek’s home court, namely the Regional Court in Kraków.
It was precisely on the basis of the analysis of these files that Deputy Commissioner Lasota and his superior, Schab, decided to charge Judge Żurek with 64 counts of disciplinary offences. They are also not ruling out notifying the public prosecutor’s office because they claim that the judge committed a ‘falsification of judgments’. This applies to the dates on some of the court’s decisions being the same as the dates on which Żurek was present at NCJ meetings in Warsaw. Meanwhile, he adjudicates in Kraków.
The commissioners therefore claim that Judge Żurek signed court decisions with incorrect dates. Only, as it transpired, in most cases, these were not judgments but decisions of a lower rank, i.e. court decisions.
The commissioners did not answer the question of whether anyone had suffered any injury as a result of these incorrect dates being entered. They also refused to answer the question of whether the validity of these erroneously dated judgments should be overturned.
Commissioner Schab claimed that the objective of the conference – probably the first since June 2018 when the central disciplinary commissioners came to office – was to inform the public about such appalling action by the judge. The fact that it is precisely Judge Żurek, whom the commissioners have been pursuing for years, is, as Schab and Lasota asserted, a complete coincidence. Meanwhile, they made the assurance that the proceedings would be conducted by Lasota absolutely reliably.
Questions about the fairness of the proceedings arose in the context of the Kasta/Antykasta group on WhatsApp written up by Onet and OKO.press. Its members in 2018 were to have included both Deputy Disciplinary Commissioner Lasota and Przemysław Radzik. It was within this group, under the auspices of former Deputy Minister of Justice Łukasz Piebiak that plans appeared, among other things, in order to injure Judge Żurek. Radzik wrote, among other things, that: ‘Żur will crap himself at the hearing with Buddy Michał (Lasota – ed.)’. Radzik also ordered that Mała Emi [Little Emi], i.e. Emilia Szmydt, who had previously been an internet hater, followed by a whistleblower who helped to expose the hate scandal, ‘anonymously’ reports Judge Żurek.
Meanwhile, in the Kasta/Antykasta group, Lasota enthusiastically accepted Piebiak’s order to ‘smash some Caste member’. People in the group referred to judges defending the independence of the courts as ‘kaściak’ [caste member]. In response to Piebiak’s post about ‘smashing a caste member’, Lasota wrote back that he already had several candidates for being charged. He also emphasised that – in line with the example of his colleague, Przemysław Radzik, the second deputy disciplinary commissioner – he would like to declare ‘today, tomorrow and Monday a day of the sad caste member’. As he added: ‘Let every day be a sad caste member day.’
We should emphasise that the prosecutor’s office, which is conducting proceedings to clarify the hate scandal – the third unit to handle this matter – has not come up with any results for almost three years.
Judge Zurek: It was the duty of the commissioners to demonstrate whether there was any damage. They did not prove it, because no one suffered any damage
‘Behind the scenes, everyone in the court knows that, before a ruling is finally issued and signed by judges from the bench – if a three-judge bench is adjudicating – a draft is first prepared. When a decision is being issued by a single judge, the judge also often prepares a draft and writes the date on it,’ Judge Żurek tells Onet. ‘And sometimes, this date is not changed, even if the decision is actually made later. This is a simple oversight, a clerical error, which is of absolutely no significance to the parties to the proceedings. Potentially, it could have if I were a judge in the criminal division, but I have always adjudicated in the civil division. Here, timing for the parties is measured from the moment they physically receive the court’s decision,’ he explains.
Judge Żurek points out that if the commissioners are pressing charges against him, they were required to specify whether anyone suffered any injury as a result of potentially erroneous dates on the court decisions. ‘Meanwhile, they have not mentioned anything of the kind, because no one has suffered any injury,’ he emphasises. ‘They should also specify any culpable actions on the part of all the judges who adjudicated with me in three-judge benches. They didn’t do this either,’ the judge points out. ‘I would also like to emphasise that, in such a three-judge bench, it is the clerk who enters the date on the draft decision. I cannot change the date, I only sign it,’ says Judge Żurek.
He emphasises that, after many years (the cases analysed by the commissioners apply to the years 2012–2018 – ed.), he is unable to check on which days he was at a meeting of the NCJ in the morning and in the courtroom in Kraków in the afternoon. ‘And there were a lot of such days, because I was working 24 hours a day then,’ he emphasises.
‘This is all about the media which are sympathetic to the government machinating against me. The commissioners are ridiculing themselves’.
‘It can now be plainly seen that the commissioners, who are involved in the hate scandal, not having been held accountable by the appropriate state authorities, are using the classic Soviet-era method against me: we have Żurek, we need to find a paragraph on him,’ the judge points out. ‘Only my files are being trawled so that the objective of this whole matter today is to bring about the media that are favourable to the government machinating against me,’ he says. ‘I will state clearly – anyone taking part in this legal banditry will one day have to face the public prosecutor. I will fight for their right to a defence, as well as to an impartial and fair court,’ he emphasises.
The judge recalls that there are serious doubts about the impartiality of the person handling the proceedings in his case. ‘We recently saw screenshots of discussions within the organised Kasta/Antykasta group, in which both deputy commissioners were active, including Mr Lasota, who is trawling my files,’ says Judge Żurek. ‘It can be clearly seen that they had plans to destroy me and drag me through the mud, so it’s no surprise to me what they are doing now – this matter will show what the “hunt for Żurek” looks like, and expose these inept hunters not only to criminal charges in the future, but also to ridicule,’ the judge concludes.
Translated by Roman Wojtasz
The article was published in Polish on Onet.pl.