She has been adjudicating in the criminal division for 30 years. Ziobro’s man transferred her to the labour division. ‘They showed contempt’
‘This is a show of contempt for the work we do. The authorities are proving that they can do anything they like with a judge,’ commented Judge Marzanna Piekarska-Drążek of the Court of Appeal in Warsaw in an interview with Onet on the decision to move her to the labour and social insurance division after 30 years of adjudicating in the criminal division. On Monday, after returning from her holiday, she found out that she is to work in a completely different place from next week.
by Magdalena Gałczyńska, Onet.pl
- The new president of the capital’s court of appeal and simultaneously the central disciplinary commissioner of judges, Piotr Schab, made the decision to transfer the judge, which was signed by his deputy, Przemysław Radzik
- Earlier, during the summer holidays, the management of the capital’s court of appeal transferred two other judges, Ewa Gregajtys and Ewa Leszczyńska-Furtak, from the same criminal division to the labour division
- What the three judges, who were transferred against their will, have in common is that they questioned the status of nominees of the new NCJ, so-called ‘neo-judges’, and overturned the rulings made by these people
- ‘If no legal basis for this decision was given in the document prejudging a judge’s entire future, including my transfer, how am I supposed to treat this document as being serious and based on the law?’ asks Judge Piekarska-Drążek in an interview with Onet.
- She points out that, after the decision of the presidents of the capital’s court of appeal, ‘there was almost certainly rejoicing in many prisons’.
Magda Gałczyńska, Onet: You returned to your court from holiday today. And it turned out that there would be changes.
Judge Marzanna Piekarska-Drążek: Yes, definitely. Immediately after coming to work I was handed a letter informing me that I am to start adjudicating in the labour division from 12 September. I have been adjudicating in the criminal division for 30 years, and now I am supposed to enter into a completely new field. This is kind of … well, kind of ridiculous. All the more so that President Schab’s decision – which was specifically signed by Vice President Radzik – was issued on 9 August. I was on holiday at the time, but no one informed me of this. It is also worth pointing out that the decision on my transfer itself is somewhat defective.
If there is no regulation cited by the ‘ruler’ in a document that determines a judge’s entire professional future, no legal basis for this decision, how am I supposed to take this decision seriously?
So what will happen now?
I don’t know. I suppose I will be finishing the criminal cases I am currently handling. I have about 40 of them – the most serious ones – plus a few dozen of what I would call minor ones, which is an average of a year and a half of a judge’s work. If I am removed from these cases, they will have to start all over again, from the beginning. This is the result of a replacement of a judge in a criminal case.
This would obviously be to the detriment of the public and the justice system?
In a normal country, yes. However, I am convinced that the social consequences of this decision are completely insignificant to them – those who currently rule the courts both centrally and individually. All that matters is the absolute control of the courts, in order to serve the political authorities. It is easy to imagine who else is enjoying this. Almost certainly many prisons in Poland.
How many years have you been adjudicating in the criminal division?
About 30. However, a judge’s knowledge and professional experience are of no value to the group that is currently managing the courts. Meanwhile, what is socially most important in this service is the knowledge and experience gained in passing the most difficult sentences. A person develops this skill over decades. And the moment he is mature, that’s when your ‘rulers’ tell you that your work is insignificant. We’ll take you away from the public and throw you into another section; what’s the harm! But this is almost infeasible, just as it is infeasible to transfer a surgeon specialising in brain surgery to, for example, the abdominal section. After all, new people are appearing in the criminal division at the same time as the transfer of three judges from the criminal division to another division is taking place. One new person has already appeared, seconded from the Regional Court. More are to come, so our places are already taken.
A penalty? Harassment for challenging the status of so-called neo-judges?
It’s certainly not a reward. What has been done to me, to Judges Ewa Gregajtys and Ewa Leszczyńska-Furtak – who have also been thrown out of the criminal division into the labour law section – is a demonstration of contempt for the service we perform. The authority is proving: ‘we can do whatever we like with you, judge.’ But that is not the case. I still believe constitutional order, legal order exists, and we will be able to sort it all out one day.
Probably not in the coming months?
No, I will become a judge in another division, the labour division, not even in the coming months, but the coming days. Until then, I intend to go to court normally in my division, the Second Criminal Division – unless someone denies me this right. I am in the hands of the authority that believes it is stronger and can do whatever it wants with me, a judge, an employee. They are wrong. I never give up when defending a good cause. We judges – who are treated today like pawns to be moved about a chessboard – are fighting for the values that are most important in a democratic state. We are fighting for the separation of powers, for civil rights, for the courts to have control over the decisions, including unlawful decisions, of the political authorities. So we shall not give up, because that would be giving consent to lawlessness. If I were to surrender, I would stop being a judge.
The fact that you, as well as Judges Gregajtys and Leszczyńska-Furtak, have been removed from the criminal division – although you have a huge amount of experience – also means that you are losing control over the use of wire-tapping and other operational methods used by the services in Poland?
Precisely. After all, I have no doubt that one of the objectives of taking over the Warsaw region and appellate area was to eliminate experienced judges from controlling the activities of the services. That is because the services today are requesting permission from the Regional Court in Warsaw to use operational methods, including wire-tapping. If it does not agree, the case ends up with us, the criminal division of the court of appeal. Only that Vice-President Przemysław Radzik has now assumed total control over these proceedings, and it is he who will decide which judge he will appoint to hear these cases.
What do you mean? Is that possible?
Anything is possible where the law is not applied. No doubt, this is the elimination of us from hearing cases of the secret service, not allowing judges to know what is going on in the secret chancellery. It is precisely in such an area – organised crime and special services – that an experienced judge has a great deal of knowledge and can recognise what kind of wire-tapping the authorities want. And such judges with a great deal of experience are highly undesirable for the current authorities in these matters.
Originally published on 5 September 2022.