Judge Irena Majcher: My case shows that anyone can experience harassment
‘If there is such a possibility, let’s prosecute the judge. Regardless of whether or not the allegations are real,’ says Irena Majcher about the actions of the prosecution service. The Disciplinary Chamber will decide on Wednesday whether to revoke the judge’s immunity so that the prosecutor can charge her
The article was published in Gazeta Wyborcza, 21 October 2020. Interview by Anita Karwowska.
Interview with Judge Irena Majcher, adjudicating in the National Court Register at the District Court in Opole since 2001. The Disciplinary Chamber is to consider the motion of the Department of Internal Affairs of the National Public Prosecutor’s Office to waive the judge’s immunity on Wednesday, 21 October. The investigators want to charge the judge with a clerical offence for the alleged failure to fulfil her duties in one case. On the next day, on Thursday, 22 October, it will decide whether to waive Judge Igor Tuleya’s immunity.
Anita Karwowska: How long have you been a judge?
Judge Irena Majcher: ‘I received my judicial nomination in May 1990. I am nearing retirement, but I spent the last year on sick leave. I want to return to work, but I don’t know if the Disciplinary Chamber and the prosecutor’s office will let me.’
The Disciplinary Chamber is to decide on Wednesday whether to revoke your immunity. If that happens, the prosecutor’s office will have an open route to press the charges against you that it formulated two years ago.
‘According to the prosecutor’s office, in one of the cases I failed to fulfil my duties not only as a judge, but also as the head of the National Court Register division at the District Court in Opole. This is absolutely groundless. I shall explain the details, although I know it may seem complicated to people who are unfamiliar with this.’
‘Regulations entered into force in 2001 requiring companies to register in the electronic system of the National Court Register. The companies had a specified time to re-register, but the deadline was postponed several times, the last deadline for re-registration was 31 December 2015.
Companies were responsible for re-registering if they wanted to continue operating. The failure to do so resulted in the statutory termination of their legal existence and the company was threatened with the loss of property, which, by law, was transferred to the State Treasury. The accusation today that the court was supposed to force a company that was in the old commercial register to register with the National Court Register is absolutely groundless. Such action would breach the principle of business activity freedom.
One of the companies from the Opole region had not registered on time and lost its assets. Therefore, the company’s authorities submitted a notice to the prosecutor’s office and the prosecutor specified you as the guilty party. According to the prosecutor’s office, you should have initiated proceedings to force the company to re-register with the National Court Register.
‘The paradox is that the company that filed the report with the prosecutor’s office and blamed me was one of many to which my division had sent information that the time for the re-registration had passed, so the statutory effects took place. And this turned against me.
I did not make a mistake and I did not commit a crime. I acted in accordance with the provisions of the Act on the National Court Register. There were approximately 160,000 such entities in the country that did not re-register. And I am not familiar with the other case where the judge would be held liable for the fact that the company did not enter itself into the National Court Register.’
The proceedings in your case have been open since October 2018.
‘The first letter from the prosecutor’s office was a shock to me. The judicial community immediately backed me up, and this is still the case today, for which I would like to thank everyone. This is very important. I quickly went to Wrocław to read the files from the prosecutor’s investigation. I was still able to do so, because, in some proceedings, judges are unable to do so.’
When reading these files, how did you assess your situation?
‘I have been convinced from the beginning that the allegations are completely wrong. The prosecutor became lost in the provisions on the National Court Register. However, at times I think that perhaps it is not about the prosecutor’s errors in thinking, but about something else.’
‘If there is such a possibility, let’s prosecute the judge. Regardless of whether the allegations have any truth.’
Could this be about something else? We know how Judges Igor Tuleya, Paweł Juszczyszyn and Beata Morawiec fell into this authority’s bad books. But what about you?
“My defence attorneys and I have our suspicions, but I cannot reveal them today.’
So there is more to the story?
‘There are premises for drawing such a conclusion.’
Are you a rebellious judge?
‘I have been where I should be since this authority’s actions against the judiciary started. I took part in protests in defence of the rule of law. I am a member of the Association of Polish Judges ‘Iustitia’. However, I do not think that I am a particular eyesore for this authority. I would say, a little sneeringly, that I am a line judge of a district court out in the country.’
One of ten thousand judges being attacked by the current authority.
‘My case shows that anyone can experience harassment.’
How are you taking it?
‘I have tried to work as efficiently as possible and stay calm since the initiation of the procedure, but of course it has all put a huge strain on my psyche at the expense of my health. The stress was so great that I was hospitalised at one point. I underwent a life-saving operation. Hence that sick leave.’
What are you facing for the charges being pressed by the prosecutor’s office?
‘Imprisonment for up to two years.’
Are you taking this into account?
‘I have to consider all possible scenarios.’
Would a judge be found who would convict you?
‘I am fully convinced that I did not commit a crime and I still believe that the vast majority of judges in Poland are independent and handle every case very honestly.’
I asked this because the atmosphere of fear and suspicion around the judiciary is increasingly affecting many people. People are asking themselves whether their cases will receive an independent judge or one from the ‘good change’.
‘It’s not only such questions that they are asking themselves. Other than the doubts about who appointed the judge, there are doubts prompted by the authorities about whether that judge is venal. The belief about unreliable judges is becoming increasingly entrenched. This is a blow to the authority of the state, as a judge does not issue judgments in his own name, but in the name of the Republic of Poland.’
What’s the worst that can happen to you in this situation?
‘The feeling of profound injustice that is facing me. There were no grounds for initiating an investigation in my case, and yet the prosecution did so. This is how it showed that you can always accuse someone of something.’
‘I’m bitter. Throughout thirty years of adjudication, I tried to perform my duties as best I could; there were never any objections to my work. And now, at the end of my career, I am facing something like this. It’s a shame that, instead of working, I have to devote my time to proving something that is obvious.’
In the first instance, the disciplinary court in Wrocław did not find you guilty and refused to revoke your immunity. The prosecutor’s office was then represented by Michał Walendzik from the National Prosecutor’s Office, the same prosecutor who recently signed the decision to search Judge Beata Morawiec’s home.
‘During that session, I presented my position for almost five hours. At one point I noticed that Prosecutor Walendzik was covering his face with the sleeve of his gown, as if he wanted to cover his shame. After leaving the courtroom, he told me that this would not end in the first instance as he would probably be forced to file an appeal.’
Will you appear in front of the Disciplinary Chamber tomorrow?
‘No. According to the decision of the CJEU of 8 April 2020, the Disciplinary Chamber should have suspended its activity.’
Translated by Roman Wojtasz