Duda’s dangerous proposition. Will some of the opposition fall into this trap?


Leading journalist and commentator on legal affairs in Poland, a columnist for Polityka weekly. Her latest book ‘Sędziowie mówią. Zamach…


Support from a part of the opposition for the presidential bill for revitalising the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court would, among other things, be in conflict with the recently concluded Agreement for the Rule of Law. And in conflict with the rulings of the European courts – in Luxembourg and Strasbourg.

It arises from the leaks and public statements from opposition politicians after Tuesday’s meeting with President Andrzej Duda on his bill that only Borys Budka from the Civic Coalition (KO) decidedly rejected the bill.  Other participants, namely Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz (PSL), Krzysztof Śmiszek (New Left) and Hanna Gil-Piątek (Poland 2050), considered this bill to be a good start and should be worked on, because perhaps, as a result, the European Union will unblock the money for the National Reconstruction Plan. 


The opposition’s fear of being accused of depriving Poland of EU money because of its lack of support for the presidential bill is understandable, but for the time being there is no question of the EU ‘buying’ the bill. However, the opposition’s support for the bill may encourage the EU to do so, which would mean a green light for the further destruction of the justice system in Poland.


The presidential bill does nothing to improve disciplinary proceedings against judges. It merely changes the name of the Supreme Court’s Chamber, where they are to be held: from ‘Disciplinary’ to ‘Professional Liability’. The President will make the decisions on the staffing of this Chamber, choosing 11 out of 36 candidates selected by lot. And there is no doubt that he will choose those who he trusts, namely the neo-judges. Perhaps adding some legitimate judge as a fig leaf. So there will be no real change in disciplinary proceedings.


The bill will worsen the situation in the so-called old chambers of the Supreme Court, because judges from the current Disciplinary Chamber created by PiS will be transferred to adjudicate in the others and will dominate them, resulting in even more legally questionable judgments.


Duda’s proposition. In conflict with the European courts


The bill also provides for another ‘scam’: the procedure for questioning a judge’s impartiality. It pretends – before the European Union – to address the rulings questioning the legitimacy of the appointments of the neo-judges.  This is essentially a procedure designed to pacify such challenges. Firstly, the Muzzle Act still treats such a challenge as a disciplinary offence. Just hours ago, Judge Joanna Hetnarowicz-Sikora was suspended during a court session by order of Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro – for contesting a neo-judge’s right to adjudicate.


According to the presidential bill, the procedure for contesting a judge’s impartiality may be launched within three days of the notification (in what procedure?) of the appointment of a panel adjudicating in the case. Further: the circumstances of a judge’s appointment cannot be the only grounds for challenging his rulings. This is in conflict with the judgments of the Court of Human Rights: in the Reczkowicz, Dolińska-Ficek and Ozimek and Advance Pharma cases. In the judgment of the last of these cases (after all, issued on the day of the announcement of the presidential bill) the ECtHR announced that the matter of defectiveness of judicial appointments in Poland (with the involvement of the neo-NCJ) is a structural problem and the government needs to expect that all such complaints to the ECtHR will be accepted.  And, on Tuesday, it issued an interim order suspending the hearing before the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court on lifting the immunity of Włodzimierz Wróbel, Supreme Court Judge of the Criminal Chamber (pretext: the prosecutor’s office is blaming him for a mistake made by an employee of the secretariat), because the Chamber consists entirely of neo-judges.


The appointment of neo-judges was also questioned by the Court of Justice of the EU in its responses to requests from Polish courts for preliminary rulings – including in the case filed in the Supreme Court by Judge Waldemar Żurek. Therefore, President Duda is proposing a solution that is in conflict with EU law. Judgments of the CJEU and of the ECtHR are a part of this law, because the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights is a part of EU law.


Do not squander several years of the struggle over the rule of law

The presidential bill introduces a new disciplinary offence: ‘the refusal to administer justice’ – a stick to beat judges who refuse to be members of panels with neo-judges in order to reduce the number of defective judgments and therefore protect the rights of those on trial.


The presidential bill is also fundamentally in conflict with the Agreement for the Rule of Law, which all the opposition groups joined in December. The Agreement, to which social organisations, including the organisations of judges and the association of prosecutors, Lex Super Omnia, are also parties, requires the signatories to sanitise the judiciary, the basis of which is the challenge of the defective system of judicial appointments. The bill submitted to the Sejm by KO and the New Left two days ago within the framework of the Agreement, provides for the revocation of appointments made by the neo-NCJ by law. Therefore, it does not recognise neo-NCJ judges as being judges. Since this is the case, how can the Left now publicly take the presidential bill at face value? How can it legitimise it in this way, informing the EU that the bill could be the thing that will cause it to withdraw the ultimatum given by the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen?


She set three conditions in the ultimatum: the commitment to liquidate the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, changes in the disciplinary system, and the reinstatement of the ousted judges (the presidential bill provides that the suspended judges will be able to appeal to the Professional Liability Chamber – namely to neo-judges).


The CJEU will announce its verdict in a few days – on 16 February – in the case regarding the compatibility of the ‘money for the rule of law’ mechanism with EU law. Does the opposition want to block its application?


The fear of displeasing some voters for blocking EU money is understandable. But is it worth squandering several years of efforts of persuading the EU to activate the instruments available to it to protect the rule of law just to receive this EU money – which, as a matter of fact, the government could spend in such a way as to strengthen its power? Efforts for which judges and prosecutors paid the highest price, having their careers and personal lives ruined. Do politicians from some of the opposition have the moral right to do this?


The article was published in Polish by Polityka weekly.


Leading journalist and commentator on legal affairs in Poland, a columnist for Polityka weekly. Her latest book ‘Sędziowie mówią. Zamach…



February 11, 2022


Supreme CourtDisciplinary ChamberConstitutional Tribunaldisciplinary proceedingsPolandrule of lawZbigniew ZiobroEuropean CommissionCourt of Justice of the EUjudgesjudicial independenceNational Council of the JudiciaryEuropean UnionCourt of JusticeAndrzej DudaMałgorzata ManowskaIgor Tuleyadisciplinary systemEuropean Court of Human RightsMateusz MorawieckiCommissioner for Human RightsCJEUMinister of JusticeJarosław KaczyńskiWaldemar Żurekdemocracymuzzle lawpresidential electionsjudiciaryAdam Bodnarpreliminary rulingsK 3/21Hungaryelections 2020Kamil Zaradkiewiczdisciplinary commissionerBeata MorawiecPiotr SchabPrzemysław RadzikFirst President of the Supreme CourtprosecutorsEuropean Arrest WarrantMaciej NawackiPrime MinisterJulia Przyłębskamedia freedomProsecutor GeneralConstitutionCOVID-19National Council for JudiciaryMichał LasotaPresidentfreedom of expressionŁukasz PiebiakCourt of Justice of the European Unioncriminal lawdisciplinary liability for judgesWojciech HermelińskiMarek SafjanAleksander StepkowskiNational Recovery PlanOSCEPaweł JuszczyszynAnna DalkowskaNational Public Prosecutorcriminal proceedingsfreedom of assemblyStanisław BiernatExtraordinary Control and Public Affairs ChamberSupreme Administrative Courtconditionality mechanismconditionalityEU budgetWłodzimierz WróbelCriminal ChamberLaw and JusticeprosecutionNCJMinistry of JusticeNational ProsecutorDagmara Pawełczyk-WoickaelectionsStanisław PiotrowiczJarosław WyrembakAndrzej ZollMałgorzata Gersdorfacting first president of the Supreme CourtOrdo IurisK 7/21May 10 2020 electionsLex DudaNational Reconstruction PlanPresident of PolandPresident of the Republic of PolandSejmXero Flor w Polsce Sp. z o.o. v. PolandBroda and Bojara v Polandmedia independenceIustitiaJarosław DudziczSylwia Gregorczyk-AbramAmsterdam District CourtKrzysztof ParchimowiczArticle 6 ECHRTHEMISEAWUrsula von der LeyenmediaimmunityCouncil of Europe2017policeJustice Defence Committee – KOSFreedom HouseLech GarlickiEwa ŁętowskaSupreme Court PresidentArticle 7Venice CommissionPM Mateusz MorawieckiAndrzej StępkaRecovery FundP 7/20Justice Fundneo-judgesPiSC-791/19National Electoral CommissionAstradsson v IcelandK 6/21Piotr PszczółkowskiPegasusGeneral Assembly of the Supreme Court Judgeslex NGOcivil societyRussiaProfessional Liability ChamberJoanna Hetnarowicz-SikorasuspensionJarosław GowinLGBTLGBT ideology free zonesReczkowicz and Others v. PolandUkraineKrystian MarkiewiczKonrad WytrykowskiJakub IwaniecZuzanna Rudzińska-BluszczDariusz DrajewiczRafał PuchalskidefamationcourtsMichał WawrykiewiczFree CourtsMarzanna Piekarska-DrążekEwa WrzosekEU law primacyTVPLex Super OmniaAdam TomczyńskiBelgiumNetherlandsBogdan Święczkowskijudcial independenceMaciej Miterademocratic backslidingViktor OrbanOLAFdecommunizationNext Generation EUvetoJózef IwulskiLaw on the NCJrecommendationTeresa Dębowska-RomanowskaKazimierz DziałochaMirosław GranatAdam JamrózStefan JaworskiBiruta Lewaszkiewicz-PetrykowskaWojciech ŁączkowskiHuman Rights CommissionerMarek MazurkiewiczCCBEAndrzej MączyńskiThe Council of Bars and Law Societies of EuropeJanusz NiemcewiczMałgorzata Pyziak- SzafnickaStanisław Rymarpublic opinion pollFerdynand RymarzAndrzej RzeplińskiJerzy StępieńPiotr TulejaSławomira Wronkowska-JaśkiewiczMirosław WyrzykowskireportBohdan ZdziennickiMarek ZubikDidier ReyndersEuropean ParliamentOKO.pressZiobroMichał LaskowskiMarek PietruszyńskitransferPiotr GąciarekKrystyna PawłowiczMariusz MuszyńskiRegional Court in KrakówPiebiak gatehuman rightscorruptionEuropean Association of Judges11 January March in WarsawPaweł FilipekMaciej TaborowskiAdam SynakiewiczBelarusstate of emergencycoronavirusXero Flor v. PolandEU treatiesAgnieszka Niklas-BibikSłupsk Regional CourtMaciej Rutkiewiczresolution of 23 January 2020Mirosław WróblewskiCivil ChamberJoanna Misztal-KoneckaLeon Kieresright to protestSławomir JęksaPKWWiktor JoachimkowskiRoman GiertychMariusz Kamińskiinfringment actionsurveillanceEU valuesMichał WośMinistry of FinanceCentral Anti-Corruption BureauENCJJacek SasinErnest BejdaThe First President of the Supreme CourtMaciej CzajkaMariusz JałoszewskiIsraelŁukasz Radkeforeign agents lawpolexitDolińska-Ficek and Ozimek v PolandOrganization of Security and Co-operation in EuropeFirst President of the Suprme CourtPaulina Kieszkowska-KnapikMaria Ejchart-DuboisAgreement for the Rule of LawPorozumienie dla PraworządnościLGBT free zonesAct sanitising the judiciaryequalityMarek AstMaciej FerekChamber of Extraordinary VerificationEdyta Barańskahate crimesCourt of Appeal in Krakówhate speechPutinismcriminal codeKaczyńskiGrzęda v Polandright to fair trialPaulina AslanowiczJarosław MatrasŻurek v PolandMałgorzata Wąsek-WiaderekSobczyńska and Others v Polandct on the Protection of the PopulatioparliamentlegislationRafał Trzaskowskilex Wośmedia lawRome StatuteInternational Criminal CourtPrzemysła RadzikAntykastaSenateStanisław ZdunIrena BochniakKrystyna Morawa-FryźlewiczMarcin WarchołKatarzyna ChmuraElżbieta KarskaMarcin RomanowskiGrzegorz FurmankiewiczJacek CzaputowiczMarek JaskulskiPrzemysław CzarnekJoanna Kołodziej-Michałowiczlegislative practiceEwa ŁąpińskaZbigniew ŁupinaENAPaweł StyrnaZbigniew BoniekKasta/AntykastaAndrzej SkowronŁukasz BilińskiIvan MischenkoOmbudsmanMonika FrąckowiakArkadiusz CichockiKraśnikEmilia SzmydtNorwayTomasz SzmydtNorwegian fundssmear campaignNorwegian Ministry of Foreign AffairsE-mail scandalDworczyk leaksMichał DworczykC-487/19media pluralism#RecoveryFilesArticle 10 ECHRmilestonesConstitutional Tribunal PresidentRegional Court in Amsterdamrepairing the rule of lawharassmentOpenbaar MinisterieAK judgmentBohdan BieniekSimpson judgmentMarcin KrajewskiChamber of Professional LiabilityForum Współpracy SędziówMałgorzata Dobiecka-Woźniakpublic broadcastermutual trustLMIrelandIrena MajcherAmsterdamthe Regional Court in WarsawUnited NationsLeszek Mazurpopulisminterim measuresautocratizationMultiannual Financial Frameworkabortion rulingequal treatmentabortionprotestsfundamental rightsthe NetherlandsDenmarkSwedenFinlandMariusz KrasońCT PresidentGermanyCelmerC354/20 PPUC412/20 PPUAusl 301 AR 104/19Karlsruheact on misdemeanoursCivil Service ActParliamentary Assembly of the Council of EuropeEUWhite Paperlustrationtransitional justice2018Nations in TransitCouncil of the EUmedia taxStanisław Zabłockiadvertising taxmediabezwyboruJacek KurskiKESMAIndex.huTelex.huJelenJózsef SzájerKlubrádióSLAPPLIBE CommitteeStrategic Lawsuits Against Public ParticipationFrans TimmermansGazeta WyborczaUS Department of StatePollitykaBrussels IRome IISwieczkowskiArticle 2Forum shoppingadvocate generalDariusz ZawistowskitransparencyEuropean Economic and Social Committeepress releaseSebastian KaletaRights and Values ProgrammeC-156/21C-157/21C-619/18Marek Piertuszyńskidefamatory statementsWorld Justice Project awardNational Prosecutor’s Officeintimidation of dissentersWojciech SadurskiBogdan ŚwiączkowskiDisicplinary ChamberjudgeTribunal of StatePechOlsztyn courtKochenovPrzemysła CzarnekEvgeni TanchevEducation MinisterFreedom in the WorldECJIpsosFrackowiakOlimpia Barańska-Małuszeretirement ageAmnesty InternationalHudocKonrad SzymańskiPiotr Bogdanowicztrans-Atlantic valuesPiotr BurasLSOauthoritarian equilibriumlawyersArticle 258Act of 20 December 2019clientelismoligarchic systemEuropean Public Prosecutor's Officerepressive actPolish National FoundationLux VeritatisKoen LenaertsMałgorzata BednarekPiotr WawrzykharrassmentMarian BanaśAlina CzubieniakSupreme Audit OfficeTVNjournalistslexTVNGerard BirgfellerEwa MaciejewskaPolish mediapostal voteKrakówRzeszówborderpostal vote billprimacy