Disciplinary proceedings against a judge for telling the truth about staffing problems in courts
A judge from Łódź wrote critical remarks on the internet about the president of a court nominated by Zbigniew Ziobro, staff shortages in courts, and the promotion by the National Council of the Judiciary of judges “from their side”. Disciplinary spokesman Przemysław Radzik decided that the justice crossed a line by discussing this publicly and has brought disciplinary charges against him.
Known for persecuting defiant judges, the deputy disciplinary spokesman Przemysław Radzik has filed his newest case against judge Rafał Maciejewski of the Circuit Court in Łódź. Maciejewski has also been removed from his post as head of the 10th Commercial Division of that court. He has been charged with two violations.
In Radzik’s opinion, judge Maciejewski failed to follow official procedures in matters concerning the operation and staffing of the division which was under his control by bringing staffing issues to public attention on the webpage sedziowielodzcy.pl. Radzik considers this professional misconduct, which is covered by one of the charges. The second disciplinary charge is for refusing to remain another week in his post as head of a division of the court following the official end of his term of office, despite being instructed to do so by the president of the court. Radzik also considers this an example of misconduct.
“Because the new Council doesn’t like you”
Rafał Maciejewski was the head of the 10th Commercial Division of the Łódź Circuit Court for the last four years. Last year he appealed to the President of that Court, Michał Błoński (nominated by Ziobro) to solve the problem of staff shortages in his division. He wanted to combine it with another division in order to make one larger unit. In February of this year, he sent another letter to that effect.
Maciejewski’s term of office as division head expired at the end of March. Two weeks before that, and without receiving a satisfactory response to his letters from the president of the court, he wrote a critical post on the internet describing what is going on in the court. He put the post up at sedziowielodcy.pl. In the text, he described the staffing policy in “Division Z”. Judge Maciejewski did not specify which court and division he was writing about, but only discussed a Circuit Court in a large city and its Division Z.
He complained that in a division consisting of 12 judges, 1 is experiencing a long-term illness, while 5 are in fact from district courts, delegated for a period of several months. He praised the delegated justices for their hard work. They were trying to obtain a permanent post in the higher court. But the new National Council of the Judiciary, despite the positive opinion of the justices from Łódź, only gave its recommendation to 1 of 5 candidates. Nominations were given to other judges, from other divisions, who were not familiar with the work of the Commercial Division.
“First, the delegated judges in the 10th Division were given a clear signal: it doesn’t matter how well you worked and how highly your colleagues rate you. You’ll be rejected “just because”, without being told why, because the judges in the new Council just don’t like you, or maybe they have their hand-picked candidates.”
The natural, human reaction to being treated like this is to become discouraged and feel that your effort is pointless, because effort is not the criterion by which you are being judged. Of course, this was the case here as well, which should come as no surprise, and it will have an enormous influence on the quality of the work of Division Z in the near future”, wrote judge Maciejewski, expressing his disappointment at the decision of the Council.
He also criticized the president of the “big city court” for his failure to react. You can read the original post by judge Maciejewski (in Polish) here.
The justice decided to write the post following the absence of reaction to his earlier letters.
Because he went public
However, deputy disciplinary spokesman Przemysław Radzik decided that the judge was describing his own division and criticizing the president of the Łódź court. He charged Maciejewski with infringing Article 89(1) of the Common Courts Act by failing to follow official procedure and publicizing the staffing issues facing courts. The invoked provision states that as the director of a court division, he was only authorized to raise the issue via official internal channels.
At the end of March, Maciejewski’s term of office as the head of the division came to an end. There was no official information as to whether he desired to serve another term. But on 1 April, the President of the court issued an order appointing Maciejewski as temporary chief of the division for a period of 7 days. Maciejewski refused, however, and appealed against the order. He already had trials scheduled for that week as well as several sessions on duty (on duty judges fill in for other justices who, for whatever reason, are unable to appear at trial sessions).
In spokesman Radzik’s opinion, judge Maciejewski’s refusal was a violation of another provision in the Common Courts Act, Art. 79(1), which says that a judge may not refuse to follow an order of a superior concerning the performance of administrative duties “if it is a statutory duty of a judge, and also orders concerning the proper conduct of court proceedings”.
For defending judicial independence?
Radzik believes that Maciejewski undermined confidence in the judiciary and ridiculed the authority of judges from Division Z “through questioning their competences”. He also believes that people subordinate to the president should follow his orders without question, and that the scope of the activities he was assigned to do was within the scope of a judges’ duties.
It cannot be ruled out that the disciplinary proceedings against judge Rafał Maciejewski are tied to his involvement in the defence of judicial independence. Maciejewski is a member of the judges’ associations Iustitia and Themis, which are critical of the “good change” in the courts. The community of judges in Łódź has shown on multiple occasions by adopting resolutions that it will defend the independence of the judiciary.
Judges from Łódź defended the previous President of the Circuit Court, Krzysztof Kacprzak, who was relieved of his post as part of a purge conducted by Minister Zbigniew Ziobro. They also criticized promotions for judges given by the new, unconstitutional National Council of the Judiciary. Their allegations are not without merit, considering a portion of those promoted by the new Council to the Łódź Court of Appeals has been questioned by the new Chamber of Extraordinary Review and Public Matters.
All of these issues are discussed at the website sedziowielodzcy.pl, which is read by judges from around Poland.
It also cannot be excluded that the disciplinary charges against Maciejewski are the product of another disciplinary case.
Blockades and delays
There is also a disciplinary case pending against Maciejewski’s wife, judge Ewa Macjeiewska. The disciplinary spokesman is attacking her for filing motions for preliminary rulings to the Court of Justice of the European Union, the same thing judge Igor Tuleya is also being persecuted for.
Disciplinary cases for motions to the CJEU are among the first cases brought by the trio of disciplinary spokesman Piotr Schab and his two deputies, Przemysław Radzik and Michał Lasota. Actively persecuting independent judges, they are all appointees of Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro.
Radzik himself, however, has been the subject of disciplinary proceedings for the quality of his work. Recently, a complaint has been filed against him for breaching deadlines for drafting written judgements. We have reported on this at OKO.press.
The staff shortages in courts are primarily a product of the present leadership of the Ministry of Justice, headed by Zbigniew Ziobro. For several months, no action has been taken to fill hundreds of judicial vacancies. Nominations were held up until the National Council of the Judiciary could be taken over, and when it was filled with judges willing to cooperate with the Ministry, appointments to the empty posts were renewed. Other judges have been critical of the appointment process.
As a result of the blocking of appointments to courts, backlogs in cases have piled up. Today, the wait for a hearing from the Court of Appeals in Warsaw is between 1.5 and 2 years.
[translated by Matthew La Fontaine]