Dagmara Pawełczyk-Woicka, head of the new NCJ mk II. ‘Human-chaos’
This means that Łukasz Piebiak has completely lost his influence in the new NCJ. There was always a fierce conflict between him and Pawełczyk-Woicka,’ one of the judges who wish to remain anonymous tells Onet. Others emphasise that the choice of the new head of the NCJ could result in the ‘handover’ of the Council to Zbigniew Ziobro in practice. ‘After all, Dagmara is not only his school friend, but also one of his closest collaborators,’ they point out.
by Magdalena Gałczyńska, Onet.pl
- The president of the Kraków Regional Court, Dagmara Pawełczyk-Woicka, was elected chair of the Council at the first meeting during the next term of office of the NCJ.
- She owes her position in the Kraków court to Ziobro, with whom she used to go to primary school.
- A situation was publicised when Pawełczyk-Woicka consulted the minister of justice on something before she cast her vote while voting at one of the sessions during the Council’s previous term of office.
- This is yet another term of office that the president of the Regional Court in Kraków has in the new NCJ mk II, which was politically elected by the Sejm – with the votes of the PiS (Law and Justice) party and the Kukiz’15 and non-attached MPs supporting it.
- ‘It is striking that President Pawełczyk-Woicka’s views unreservedly declared in public are completely identical to the views declared by Ziobro and other Solidarna Polska [Solidary Poland] politicians,’ Judge Maciej Czajka of the Regional Court in Kraków tells Onet.
- Judge Waldemar Żurek, also from the Regional Court in Kraków, states that ‘the NCJ will be a kind of transmission belt for Ziobro through its new chair’
The next politically elected National Council of the Judiciary largely consists of people who were members of this body in the previous term of office. This is as many as 11 out of the 15 judges in the Council. Among them, the president of the Regional Court in Kraków, Dagmara Pawełczyk-Woicka was elected for another term. She owes her position in that court to Zbigniew Ziobro – after all, she is a school friend of his.
‘The election of such a chair means that Łukasz Piebiak has lost all influence in the NCJ, which once was great. And there has long been a fierce conflict between him and Pawełczyk-Woicka,’ one of the judges who wishes to remain anonymous tells Onet. ‘It was known for a long time, unofficially of course, that Ziobro originally planned to steer the Council through Piebiak. Then, however, very serious suspicions arose against him, so he had to find a replacement, namely Pawełczyk-Woicka,’ points out our interviewee.
Another judge adds that the new chair of the NCJ is known for having performed a number of acts that were detrimental to the Kraków judges, her subordinates. Judge Waldemar Żurek sued her for harassment; the case is pending.
According to Onet’s unofficial information, when Piebiak resigned after the outbreak of the hate scandal revealed by Onet, Pawełczyk-Woicka was being seriously considered for becoming his successor. However, ultimately, Anna Dalkowska became the new deputy minister of justice in 2019 – today being a member of the new NCJ.
‘Mr Ziobro wants to destroy the independent courts. Now, his colleague from the NCJ will assist him in this.’
‘Everyone is well aware of the relationship between Dagmara Pawełczyk-Woicka and Zbigniew Ziobro, so there can be no doubt that the neo-NCJ mk II is to be even more closely linked to the minister,’ Judge Waldemar Żurek, press officer of the ‘old’ NCJ, which was dismissed before the end of its term of office, tells Onet. ‘I have no doubts that the Council will be a kind of transmission belt for Ziobro. We all saw how Dagmara’s conversation with the minister went during important votes, so I have no illusions that this unconstitutional formation will not fulfil a single element of its constitutional tasks,’ points out Judge Żurek. ‘The minister wants to destroy the independent courts, and now his colleague from the NCJ will certainly help him do that.’
‘The members of each neo-NCJ, both the current and the previous one, have to expect disciplinary proceedings, together with their removal from the profession, because of their continuous breaches of the Constitution,’ this is what Judge Maciej Czajka from the Regional Court in Kraków, a member of the Themis association, says about the new Council. ‘Therefore, cosying up to politicians is perhaps the only way for them to have a future. It is unlikely that anyone will have any doubts that the choice of both this body and the person who chairs it was purely political,’ he points out.
‘It is not easy to establish any contact with the new chair. She is a human-chaos’.
‘As for the new chair – I consider her to be someone with whom it is very difficult to make any contact. It’s difficult to understand what she wants to say, and after years of her managing the court in Kraków, I can say directly: this is a human chaos,’ points out Judge Czajka. ‘I don’t know if this has any significance given the shape of this body, namely the neo-NCJ. But perhaps it was only the right person who was needed in the right place. It appears that this is certainly a step forward in terms of dependence on the minister of justice compared to what was going on in the Council to date. And even so, so far, this independence of the neo-NCJ has been very fragile,’ says Judge Czajka.
He adds that it is striking that President Pawełczyk-Woicka’s views unreservedly declared in public are completely identical to the views declared by Ziobro and other Solidarna Polska politicians. ‘This is about the attitude towards the European Union, respecting the verdicts of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the relationship between the Polish Constitution and the treaties… We could go on and on,’ he emphasises. ‘In this situation, I expect the neo-NCJ mk II under Ms Pawełczyk-Woicka’s leadership to strongly push for the further suspension of judges applying CJEU judgments. This is the understanding of judicial independence by the new head of the neo-NCJ mk II,’ says Judge Czajka. ‘I, myself, heard her publicly tell the judges that she will not allow judges in the court she manages to issue rulings that she, as president, considers to be in conflict with the law, a kind of national treason. And this was about judgments in which judges comply with judgments of the CJEU that are binding on us,’ he explains. ‘If such a person becomes head of the NCJ, then judges who want to remain independent and apply EU law and CJEU judgments have to expect further harassment, at least such as the suspension of Judge Maciej Ferek from Kraków, or attempts to manipulate the bench by moving judges from one place to another,’ Judge Czajka points out. ‘This is part of the dog fight behind the scenes between the two parties that are currently ruling Poland, namely PiS and Solidarna Polska. This is a fight over our relationship with the EU and with the treaties that are binding on us. In this matter, the new head of the neo-NCJ mk II is clearly on the side of Ziobro’s supporters,’ Judge Czajka concludes.
The beginnings of the career of the new head of the NCJ
A member of the Council and president of the Regional Court in Kraków, Judge Pawełczyk-Woicka became famous, among other things, for the fact that when she took over as president of the court by Zbigniew Ziobro’s decision in January 2018, she ordered officers of unidentified secret services to search the office where her predecessor, Judge Beata Morawiec, had been working having been dismissed from her post before the end of her term of office.
It did not stop there, because President Pawlak-Woicka also introduced severe restrictions for journalists wishing to interview judges of the Regional Court in Kraków. In 2018, she ordered that she has to approve all interviews and discussions with judges first, while journalists coming to the court have to fill out a special questionnaire about the objective of their visit in the presence of a police officer. Both the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Ombudsman protested against such restrictions.
It was precisely President Pawełczyk-Woicka who first dismissed Judge Waldemar Żurek – a former press officer of the ‘old’ NCJ which was dismissed during its term of office – from the position of press officer of the Regional Court in Kraków. Then, President Pawełczyk-Woicka transferred Judge Żurek to another division of the court against his will.
The new president also decided to dismiss Judge Dariusz Mazur, the press officer of the Themis Association, from the position of coordinator of international affairs and human rights at the Regional Court in Kraków. His place was briefly occupied by a district court judge with a disciplinary record, who had been seconded to the ‘region’. Shortly afterwards, this judge, Przemysław Wypych, ended up in the Ministry of Justice. A judge from the criminal division of the District Court for Kraków Śródmieście is currently performing the duties of the coordinator of international affairs at the Regional Court in Kraków.
Translated by Roman Wojtasz
Published in Polish at Onet.pl.