Judges under fire: 43 judges already targeted by disciplinary officer and prosecutors

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Journalist covering law and politics for OKO.press. Previously journalist at Gazeta Wyborcza, Rzeczpospolita, Polska The Times, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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More than 40 judges are being targeted by people loyal to Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro for their rulings, defence of judicial independence, meetings with citizens, criticism of “good change”, or implementation of CJEU judgments. 2019 was a difficult year for judges, in which Law and Justice (PiS) sought to break their resistance through repressions. What follows is a list of the persecuted judges.



2019 was another year of defence of courts’ independence by defiant judges in Poland. Unity is the dominant mood in the judicial community, and judges are not afraid to criticise the subordination of courts by Law and Justice authorities.

 

The first repressions began in the second half of 2018 after Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro appointed Piotr Schab as chief disciplinary officer for judges, along with two of his deputies, Przemysław Radzik and Michał Lasota.

 

They were previously unknown as judges.

 

Radzik is a former prosecutor, who later served as a justice in the district court in Krosno Odrzańskie, and has been reprimanded in the past for the poor quality of his work as a judge.

 

Lasota was a judge in Nowe Miasto Lubawskie, whose rulings were frequently overturned by an appeal court. Ziobro appointed them disciplinary officers and gave them the position of president in their home courts.

 

Only the chief disciplinary officer, Piotr Schab, a judge at the Warsaw District Court, is known; his notoriety came from his ruling discontinuing the case against Mariusz Kamiński, former head of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau, accused of abuse of powers in 2007.

 

Schab was a member of the judicial panel which ruled that President Andrzej Duda could pardon Kamiński in the course of the trial.

 
This team of officers-prosecutors taking on judges ramped up its activity during the second half of 2018. It became clear that defiant judges would be persecuted for no good reason at all. At the end of 2018, there were 11 known cases of judges being attacked.

 

2019 confirmed that Ziobro’s disciplinary officers will ruthlessly pursue defiant judges, and that disciplinary proceedings have turned into an instrument of repression.

 

The disciplinary officers quickened the pace of disciplinary proceedings from September 2019 after the outbreak of a smearing scandal in the Ministry of Justice.

 
However, they did not charge the judges involved in the scandal – cooperating with the ministry under Ziobro’s direction – but rather the judges targeted b the smear campaign.

 

They turned the screws even tighter after the CJEU judgment of November 2019, which instructed Polish judges how to assess the legality of the new National Council for the Judiciary and the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court.

 

The Disciplinary Chamber and the new National Council of the Judiciary (NCJ) were established by Law and Justice. They were also mainly staffed with judges willing to cooperate with the Ministry of Justice. The Chamber and the new NCJ are an important element of control over the justice system.

 

That is why Ziobro’s disciplinary officers are now prosecuting judges for implementing the CJEU’s judgment and challenging the legality of the new NCJ.

 

Unfortunately, 2020 looks to be even worse for judges. The subordination bill passed by Law and Justice in the Sejm has given Ziobro’s disciplinary ombudsmen new powers they will use against independent judges.

 

And if Andrzej Duda wins the presidential election, we can expect the ruling majority to pass another law forcing a reorganization in the courts, which will facilitate a purge of defiant judges across Poland. And for those who remain on the bench, the disciplinary officers will continue to loom over them.

 

But judges are not afraid of harassment, and are demonstrating that they will defend free courts even at the price of repression.

 

Below we publish a list of 43 persecuted judges, including groups of judges from Kraków and Poznań.

 

The judges are listed in alphabetical order.

 

Anna Bator-Ciesielska

 

Judge of the District Court in Warsaw, repressed for her rulings and for applications for a preliminary ruling to the CJEU.

 

In August 2019, after the outbreak of the smear campaign scandal in the Ministry of Justice, she was the first in Poland to refuse to adjudicate in a panel with the deputy disciplinary officer for judges Przemysław Radzik, whose name appeared in the context of the smear campaign scandal. Judge Radzik has been delegated to the Warsaw court. Judge Bator-Ciesielska decided that there are doubts about his independence and the impeccability of his character, which is a requirement of a judge. Then, for the same reason, she refused to adjudicate with the second deputy disciplinary officer, Michał Lasota.

 

Judge Anna Bator-Ciesielska also submitted questions to the CJEU about the status of judges delegated by the Ministry of Justice on the basis of these cases.

 

The disciplinary officer’s reaction was instantaneous. He immediately opened an inquiry, and in December he issued five disciplinary charges against the judge. The charges are for questioning the legality of the panels in which Lasota and Radzik sat, for applying to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling (the officer found that the judge had exceeded her powers by forwarding the question – which she was entitled to do – and for giving interviews in the media about the case).

 

The disciplinary officer also requested the disciplinary court suspend the judges from their duties and reduce their salaries for the duration of the examination of the disciplinary case.

 

Olimpia Barańska-Małuszek

 

Judge of the District Court in Gorzów Wielkopolski, persecuted for her activity in Iustitia and criticism of the “good change” in courts. She is the head of the Gorzów branch of Iustitia.

 

Judge Barańska-Małuszek became famous in 2018, when the disciplinary officer started pursuing her for her participation in Jerzy Owsiak’s Pol’and’Rock festival. During a meeting at the festival, she spoke critically of the “reforms” introduced by the current authorities to the court system. She also criticized Minister Ziobro and the new National Council of the Judiciary, which was appointed in an unconstitutional manner by judges selected by Law and Justice and Kukiz’15.

 

In addition, the disciplinary officer reviewed her work in court. He found that she had issued several justifications for verdicts after the official deadline. The judge explained that it was not her fault.

 

The disciplinary officer finally left Judge Barańska-Małuszek alone. But in 2019, he came after her for further critical statements about “good change” in the courts, media and social media. Barańska-Małyszek is a very active member of the Iustitia association of judges, which defends judicial independence. For this, the spokesperson issued disciplinary charges against in August 2019 and asked the disciplinary court to suspend her from her duties until a disciplinary verdict is reached.

 

The attempt to suspend Olympia Barańska-Małuszek is the first of its kind in Poland. The disciplinary officer charged her with slandering Minister Zbigniew Ziobro (she criticised the ministry he leads for the smear campaign scandal and accused Ziobro of being behind it) as well as one of the prosecutors of the National Prosecutor’s Office, whose past includes a disciplinary reprimand, and who then campaigned to be made judge in the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court.

 

Łukasz Biliński

 

Judge of the District Court for Warsaw-Śródmieście, pushed out for his brave judgments in which he invoked the constitutional right to protest and international law. He is not being persecuted by the disciplinary officer or prosecutorial service. However, we have put him on this list because he was “silenced” and questioned by the disciplinary officer. The current authorities did not like the fact that Judge Biliński acquitted participants in street protests. There was much coverage of his verdicts, which will go down in history.

 

That is why the Ministry of Justice first abolished the court department dealing with petty offences, in which Biliński worked as a judge. Then the president of the court Maciej Mitera – a nominee of Minister Ziobro – moved the judge to the family court. Biliński was then summoned for questioning as a witness by the disciplinary officer. It is possible that the disciplinary officer was unhappy that the media wrote about Biliński’s dismissal.

 

Włodzimierz Brazewicz

 

Judge of the Court of Appeal in Gdańsk, persecuted for his civic activity and for rulings issued. The disciplinary officer investigated his participation in a meeting with Judge Igor Tuleya at the European Solidarity Centre in 2018, suggesting that the meeting, organised by the Association of Judges Iustitia and lawyers from the region, could have been political in nature, as its attendees included candidates in local government elections.

 

In this case, the disciplinary officer questioned the judge as a witness, and in October 2019 charged him with three disciplinary charges related to his statements to the media in which he criticised his questioning by the disciplinary officer.

 

In addition, Judge Brazewicz was persecuted in 2019 for his judicial activities. In November, the disciplinary officer called on him and two other judges from the Court of Appeal in Gdansk to explain one of their judgments. They are accused of misapplying the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

 

Also of significance is the fact that Judge Brazewicz is involved in educational campaigns about the law, and is acting as defender of several judges charged by the disciplinary officer, including Judge Dorota Zabłudowska from Gdańsk.

 

Marek Celej

 

Judge of the District Court in Warsaw, prosecuted for critical statements. In 1998-2006 Celej was a member of the old, legally appointed NCJ. In June 2019, the disciplinary officer demanded explanations from him for critical statements made on TVN24 concerning the vice-president of the court Dariusz Drajewicz. He was appointed by Minister Ziobro and is a member of the new NCJ. TVN24 produced a programme stating that Drajewicz does little work in the Warsaw court, which Celej addressed in the programme. Judges Piotr Gąciarek and Małgorzata Kluziak also spoke about it. The disciplinary officer also demanded explanations from them.

 

Barbara du Chateau

 

Judge of the Court of Appeal in Lublin and spokesperson of this court, persecuted for official statements about her superior. In July 2019, she was summoned to explain statements made to TVN24. The judge spoke in the case of the vice-president of the Court of Appeal in Lublin, Jerzy Daniluk, who was transferred to Siedlce so that he could additionally receive a housing allowance. Judge du Chateau spoke in this case as a press officer and mentioned official documentation.

 

Krystian Markiewicz, the head of Iustitia, and Judge Dariusz Mazur were also called on to explain their statements for TVN24 in the Daniluk case.

 

Monika Ciemięga

 

Judge of the District Court in Opole, persecuted for her activity in Iustitia and for refusal to cooperate with the disciplinary officer. In 2017, Ziobro’s ministry dismissed her from as vice-president of the District Court as part of a nationwide purge of presidents and vice-presidents of courts.

 

Judge Ciemięga is an active member of Iustitia, involved in the defence of independent courts. She is a member of the association’s audit committee and vice-president of its Opole branch. The disciplinary officer charged her at the beginning of November 2019 for refusing to appear at a hearing with the disciplinary officer and informing the public about it.

 

Ciemięga is refusing to appear before the disciplinary officer together with a group of judges who take the position that the chief disciplinary officer is not authorized to prosecute common court judges. The same charges were levelled against the head of Iustitia, Krystian Markiewicz, and Judges Monika Frąckowiak, Katarzyna Kałwak, and Bartłomiej Starosta. All are active members of Iustitia, thus their selection as targets is no accident. The disciplinary officer sought to interrogate all of them, likely because he wanted to frame them as the alleged group of judges involved in a smear campaign in cooperation with Ziobro’s justice ministry.

 

Dominik Czeszkiewicz

 

Judge of the District Court in Suwałki, prosecuted for his judicial activities. Member of the board of the Themis association of judges, critical of Law and Justice’s proposals for changes in the judicial system. He issued a verdict acquitting activists of KOD who had disturbed a campaign rally by Anna Anders in Suwałki. The verdict was overturned by Jacek Sowul, who later took the post of president of the Suwałki District Court (nominated by Ziobro).

 

After acquittal of the KOD activists, Judge Czeszkiewicz began experiencing problems as the president of the court sought to instigate disciplinary charges against him.

 

The deputy disciplinary officer in Suwałki charged him with alleged misapplication of the law when issuing cumulative judgements and alleged mistakes when questioning a girl who was the victim of a failed kidnapping. Ultimately, in 2018, the officer withdrew the charges against Czeszkiewicz.

 

Alina Czubieniak

 

Judge of the District Court in Gorzów Wielkopolski, prosecuted for her rulings and for criticism of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, which was appointed by Law and Justice. She is the first judge in Poland to be punished by the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court for issuing a just verdict.

 

The judge was charged for having issued a judgment aligned with human rights standards concerning a boy with a disability who is unable to read or write. However, the Ministry of Justice disapproved of the verdict because, according to the Ministry, Czubieniak released a “dangerous paedophile”. However, the boy was not prosecuted because of his intellectual disabilities. Nevertheless, an example was made of Judge Czubieniak and she was found guilty of misapplication of the law by the Disciplinary Chamber.

 

In addition, the chief disciplinary officer initiated proceedings against her for criticism of the Disciplinary Chamber following her sentence.

 

Monika Frąckowiak

 

Judge of the District Court in Poznań-Nowe Miasto and Wilda, persecuted for her activities in Iustitia, defending the independence of the courts, and criticising “good change”. She is on the board of MEDEL, European Judges for Democracy and Liberty.

 

As early as 2018, the disciplinary officer began reviewing her critical statements about “reforms” in the justice system at demonstrations in defence of judicial independence. The investigation was conducted by the disciplinary officer for the Greater Poland region, but he saw no misconduct on the part of Judge Frąckowiak.

 

However, the case was taken over by the chief disciplinary officer, who added another charge concerning her participation in a mock trial for young people at the Jerzy Owsiak festival. This case was ultimately dropped, but the disciplinary officer assessed Frąckowiak’s work as a judge, and in 2019 issued disciplinary charges against her for writing the justifications for verdicts after the statutory deadline.

 

However, it would be easy to charge the vast majority of judges in Poland with this infraction, due to overwhelming case loads preventing them from writing justifications for their judgements in a timely manner. The same can be seen in the histories of members of the new National Council of the Judiciary, including its head Leszek Mazur and deputy disciplinary officer Przemysław Radzik. But Radzik will not be charged, as he was defended by his superior, chief disciplinary officer

 

Piotr Schab

 

The disciplinary officer also levelled another charge against Judge Frąckowiak concerning the use of sick leave for a trip to Denmark – she went there for a meeting related to defending free courts. In October, he added further charges for more cases of writing justifications for verdicts after the statutory deadline.

 

This is not all. In November, Judge Frąckowiak was issued with disciplinary charges for refusing, together with other judges from Iustitia, including the head of the association, Krystian Markiewicz, to appear for questioning with the disciplinary officer, whom she does not recognize as having the competence to prosecute common courts judges.

 

Mariola Głowacka

 

Judge of the Court of Appeal in Poznań, prosecuted for her activity as deputy disciplinary officer at the Court of Appeal in Poznań.

 

The chief disciplinary officer initiated proceedings against her because she refused to bring disciplinary charges against Judge Sławomir Jęksa, who acquitted Joanna Jaśkowiak, wife of the mayor of Poznań.

 

Piotr Gąciarek

 

Judge of the Warsaw District Court, prosecuted for his activity in Iustitia and criticism of judicial “reforms” taken up by the current government. He is the vice-president of the Warsaw branch of Iustitia.

 

In June 2019, the disciplinary officer demanded explanations of critical statements he made on TVN24 concerning the vice-president of the court, Dariusz Drajewicz. Drajewicz was appointed by Minister Ziobro and is a member of the new National Council of the Judiciary. The programme discussed how Drajewicz does little work in the Warsaw court. Gąciarek spoke about it in TVN 24, as did both Judge Małgorzata Kluziak and Marek Celej. The disciplinary officer also demanded explanations from them.

 

Jaroslaw Gwizdak

 

Former judge of the District Court of Katowice-Zachód, in 2013-17 the president of this court, prosecuted for civil activity. He often criticised shortcomings in the justice system, and was not afraid to criticise the current government for its actions regarding the courts. In local government elections, he ran for mayor of Katowice as a non-partisan candidate. The people of Katowice cast 11% of their votes for him, which was a significant success for Gwizdak, placing him third in the voting.

 

After the 2018 election, Gwizdak returned to work in court. The disciplinary officer took an immediate interest in him, investigating whether he had not violated the principle of judicial apoliticalness of judges while running for mayor of Katowice. However, the law does not prohibit judges from standing as candidates in local government elections. Moreover, during the campaign, Judge Gwizdak took an unpaid leave of absence from work, and notified the president of the court of his candidacy. He voluntarily resigned from the bench in 2019.

 

Aleksandra Janas

 

Judge of the Court of Appeal in Katowice, prosecuted for her judicial activities and for implementing CJEU judgments.

 

In mid-December 2019, Judge Janas was examining an appeal against a divorce verdict in a panel composed of Judge Irena Piotrowska and another judge promoted to the Court of Appeal by the new National Council of the Judiciary. Judges Janas and Piotrowska applied to the Supreme Court for a preliminary ruling on the status of the judge promoted by the new Council and whether judgments issued by him are valid. In doing so, they implemented the CJEU judgment concerning the new National Council of the Judiciary and the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court.

 

On the second day after they were questioned, the disciplinary officer initiated proceedings against them, and after a few days disciplinary charges were brought. He considered examination of the legality of the new Council to be an abuse of power. The disciplinary officer is also seeking to suspend them from their duties until a disciplinary verdict is reached.

 

Kamil Jarocki

 

Judge of the District Court in Gorzów Wielkopolski, prosecuted for his judicial activities and referring questions to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling. He is a member of the board of Iustitia.

 

The disciplinary officer became interested in him in 2018 after Jarocki referred questions to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling. However, so far the judge has not been charged.

 

Sławomir Jęksa

 

Judge of the District Court in Poznań, prosecuted for his judicial activities and criticism of the disciplinary officer. It was he who acquitted the wife of Mayor of Poznań Jacek Jaśkowiak of the charge of using a vulgar word at a demonstration. She said during a 2017 speech that she was “f*****g furious” about what the Law and Justice government is doing. Joanna Jaśkowiak was sentenced to a fine in the first instance court, but the verdict was overturned on appeal.

 

In his verdict, Judge Jęksa explained that the was considered in isolation from political realities. He also said: “The accused used vulgar words that were heard by children, which is obviously wrong. But a much greater evil is what is happening in Poland. We have a series of violations of the Constitution resulting from restrictions on the freedom of assembly, the takeover of constitutional institutions, such as the Constitutional Tribunal, the National Council of the Judiciary, and currently the Supreme Court, violation of the principle of the tripartite division of powers, and the refusal to publish the rulings of the Constitutional Tribunal”.

 

These words, which the authorities took a dim view of, had already been investigated by the disciplinary officer of the Greater Poland courts, who refused to initiate proceedings. However, the chief disciplinary officer took over the case and initiated three proceedings. The disciplinary officer did not appreciate the verbal and written justification of the verdict acquitting the wife of the mayor of Poznań, which he considered to be a political manifesto, and charged Jęksa with disciplinary offenses in 2019.

 

The disciplinary officer also believes that Judge Jęksa should have recused himself from ruling in this case because he allegedly may have known Joanna Jaśkowiak at some time (there is no hard evidence of this, and the judge denies the acquaintance). This led to another disciplinary charge. The third proceeding is for criticizing the disciplinary officer from Poznań, who had previously investigated Jęksa’s case.

 

Paweł Juszczyszyn

 

Judge of the District Court in Olsztyn, prosecuted for his judicial activities and for implementing the CJEU judgment. He was the first in Poland to implement the CJEU judgment of November 2019 concerning the new National Council of the Judiciary and the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court. In November, he considered an appeal against a verdict of a court of first instance, and decided to examine the status of the judge who had been appointed by the new Council. Therefore, he subpoenaed the list of signatures in support of candidates to the new Council in order to examine its legality, and thus to determine whether it was duly authorized to appoint and promote judges.

 

A hailstorm of repression rained down on him. The Ministry of Justice immediately dismissed him from his delegation to the district court, and the president of his home court in Olsztyn, Maciej Nawacki (a nominee of Minister Ziobro) suspended him from adjudicating for a month, which the Disciplinary Chamber later ruled inappropriate.

 

Judge Juszczyszyn faces disciplinary charges for implementing the CJEU judgment, and the disciplinary officer has also accused him of filing allegedly unfounded motions for recusal from one case. He was also charged for issuing a statement to the media.

 

Katarzyna Kałwak

 

Judge of the District Court in Olesno, prosecuted for her activity in Iustitia and refusal to cooperate with the disciplinary officer. She is president of the Opole branch of Iustitia. In 2017, as part of nationwide purges, the Ministry of Justice dismissed her from the post of President of the Court in Olesno.

 

The disciplinary officer issued disciplinary charges against her at the beginning of November 2019 for refusing to appear for a hearing with the disciplinary officer and for informing the public about it. The judge is refusing to appear before the disciplinary officer together with a group of judges who are of the opinion that the chief disciplinary officer is not authorized to prosecute common court judges.

 

The same charges were brought against the head of Iustitia, Krystian Markiewicz, and Judges Monika Frąckowiak, Bartłomiej Starosta and Monika Ciemięga. All are active members of Iustitia, thus it is no accident that they are being targeted. The disciplinary officer is seeking to question all of them, likely because he wants to cast them as members of an alleged group of judges running a smear campaign and who cooperated with Ziobro’s ministry.

 

Małgorzata Kluziak

 

A retired judge of the District Court in Warsaw, prosecuted for her activities on behalf of free courts and criticism of the “reforms” of the present authorities in the justice system. Kluziak is the former president of the District Court in Warsaw. Her term of office ended in 2017, but immediately after the appointment of a new president, the Ministry of Justice dismissed her deputy in the middle of her term. Kluziak is actively involved in the defence of free courts, and is one of the founders of the Justice Defence Committee.

 

In June 2019, the disciplinary officer demanded explanations from her for her critical statements made on TVN24 concerning the court’s vice-president Dariusz Drajewicz, a nominee of Minister Ziobro and a member of the new National Council of Justice. The programme discussed how Drajewicz does little work in the Warsaw court. Kluziak spoke about it on TVN 24, as did Judges Piotr Gąciarek and Marek Celej. The disciplinary officer also demanded explanations from them.

 

Arkadiusz Krupa

 

Judge of the District Court in Łobez, prosecuted for activities to educate young people. He is known for his satirical cartoons about the justice system published in “Rzeczpospolita” and on the blog “Ślepym Okiem Temidy”. The disciplinary officer prosecuted him in 2018 for his participation in a mock trial for young people at the Owsiak Festival. The disciplinary officer disapproved of the fact that the judge in the simulated trial appeared in a judge’s toga, wearing a chain with an eagle.

 

Ultimately, after a storm in the media, the disciplinary officer dropped the case against Judge Krupa.

 

Rafał Lisak

 

Judge of the District Court in Kraków, prosecuted for his judicial activity. The disciplinary officer charged him for attempting to review the legality of the new National Council of the Judiciary. The judge was in a panel composed of three justices, alongside Wojciech Maczuga and Kazimierz Wilczek, who were to examine an appeal against a verdict issued by a magistrate. The judges therefore asked for information on who appointed the magistrate – the new, unconstitutional Council or the old, legal Council.

 

The president of the Kraków court, Dagmara Pawełczyk-Woicka (a nominee of Minister Ziobro), herself also a member of the new National Council of the Judiciary, who reported the judges to the disciplinary officer, was displeased by Lisak’s actions. The disciplinary officer quickly charged them for attempting to investigate the legality of the new Council, although it later turned out that the magistrate had been appointed by the old Council. The judges were brought up on disciplinary charges in November 2019 after the CJEU issued its verdict, and these were the first disciplinary proceedings in Poland for attempting to investigate the legality of the new Council. The disciplinary officer also motioned for the suspension of these judges from their duties until a disciplinary verdict is issued.

 

Dorota Lutostańska

 

Judge of the District Court in Olsztyn, prosecuted for her judicial activities and for wearing a T-shirt with the inscription “Constitution.”

 

She was charged in March 2019, because on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Poland’s independence in 2018, she celebrated the anniversary with a commemorative photo together with other judges from Olsztyn, in which she was wearing a T-shirt with the inscription “Constitution.” The disciplinary offer claimed this was a sign of bias and said she should be excluded from one of the cases on her docket.

 

Judge Lutostańska was hearing an appeal against a ruling concerning the activists of the Democracy Defence Committee (KOD) from Olsztyn, charged for placing T-shirts with the inscription “Constitution, Jędrek” on sculptures located in downtown Olsztyn market. This was a happening in which the activists reminded the president that he was under a duty to observe the Constitution. The police sought to bring misdemeanour charges for this. However, the District Court in Olsztyn refused to proceed, ruling that the act did not constitute a crime. This decision was upheld by Judge Lutostańska, and for this she was brought up on disciplinary charges – the disciplinary officer decided that she should not have ruled in this case.

 

T-shirts with the inscription “Constitution” have been worn by judges all over Poland, but so far only Judge Lutostańska has been prosecuted for it.

 

Wojciech Łączewski

 

Former judge of the District Court for Warsaw-Śródmieście, prosecuted for his judicial activity. He is probably the most hated Polish judge by the right wing and Law and Justice. Łączewski is under fire for a verdict from 2015 in which he sentenced the former head of the CBA, Mariusz Kamiński, to prison for an illegal operation by the CBA against Andrzej Lepper. Kamiński was pardoned by President Andrzej Duda in the course of the trial, but strange things started to happen around Judge Łączewski; he also became the target of an extensive smear campaign.

 

In April 2019, the disciplinary spokesman charged him with alleged political activity, impersonating another person on Twitter, for baseless submissions to the prosecutor’s Office, and for alleged perjury. In connection with the last two matters, the Prosecutor’s Office in Krakow charged Łączewski with criminal charges. This became possible after the judge himself resigned from the bench in November 2019.

 

Łączewski has both a criminal and disciplinary case against him for alleged contacts on Twitter with a fake account impersonating Tomasz Lis. The case is complicated, and the judge may be the victim of a deliberate provocation aimed at him. He denies the charges and wants to stand trial as soon as possible. Interestingly, criminal charges have been brought against him, although a few days earlier a court had accepted his motion for the discontinuance of the case he had initiated, in which he had the status of a victim.

 

Judge Łączewski’s troubles are related to the sentence he issued against Mariusz Kaminski, vice-president of the Law and Justice party. The judge was subjected to strong pressure and left on his own. In conjunction with the attacks on him, Łączewski has filed civil suit against the Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro.

 

Ewa Maciejewska

 

Judge of the District Court in Łódź, prosecuted for her judicial activities. In 2018, the disciplinary officer requested clarification from her in connection with her question to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The disciplinary officer considers the question to be a “judicial excess.”

 

Rafał Maciejewski

 

Judge of the Regional Court in Łódź, prosecuted for criticising “good change” in the judiciary. The disciplinary officer was displeased with an article he published judowielodzcy.pl, in which he described staffing difficulties in the Łódź court. For that, he was charged with a disciplinary violation in 2019. Judge Maciejewski was hit with a second charge for not agreeing to remain for an extra week in his post as head of a court department, which the president of the court expected of him.

 

It cannot be ruled out that the disciplinary charges against Judge Rafał Maciejewski are related to his involvement in the defence of free courts. Maciejewski belongs to the Iustitia and Themis associations of judges, which are critical of “good change” in the courts. And the community of Łódź judges has shown more than once, by adopting resolutions, that it will defend the independence of the judiciary.

 

Not without significance is also the fact that he is married to Judge Ewa Maciejewska, also being persecuted by the disciplinary officer for preliminary questions to the CJEU.

 

Wojciech Maczuga

 

Judge of the District Court in Kraków, prosecuted for his judicial activity. The disciplinary officer charged him for attempting to review the legality of the new National Council of the Judiciary. The judge was in a panel composed of three justices, alongside Rafał Lisak and Kazimierz Wilczek, who were to examine an appeal against a verdict issued by a magistrate. The judges therefore asked for information on who appointed the magistrate – the new, unconstitutional Council or the old, legal Council.

 

The president of the Kraków court, Dagmara Pawełczyk-Woicka (a nominee of Minister Ziobro), herself also a member of the new National Council of the Judiciary, who reported the judges to the disciplinary officer, was displeased by Maczuga’s actions. The disciplinary officer quickly charged them for attempting to investigate the legality of the new Council, although it later turned out that the magistrate had been appointed by the old Council. The judges were brought up on disciplinary charges in November 2019 after the CJEU issued its verdict, and these were the first disciplinary proceedings in Poland for attempting to investigate the legality of the new Council. The disciplinary officer also motioned for the suspension of these judges from their duties until a disciplinary verdict is issued.

 

Irena Majcher

 

Judge of the District Court in Opole, pursued by the prosecutorial service for her judicial activities.

 

The prosecutor’s office is seeking to charge her for an admissible interpretation of the law which she applied in one of the cases involving the National Court Register. The prosecution is an attempt to make her a scapegoat, because one of the companies did not fulfil the formalities required by law.

 

Ewa Malinowska

 

Judge of the District Court in Warsaw, prosecuted for her judicial activity and for her actions in defence of free courts. She was the vice-president of the District Court in Warsaw, dismissed in 2017 by the Ministry of Justice as part of purges taking place across the country. The dismissal may be related to the fact that years ago, she pointed out mistakes in the work of Łukasz Piebiak, later appointed Deputy Minister of Justice with power over the courts. After criticism of his work by Judge Malinowska, Piebiak was charged with disciplinary offences and the disciplinary court found him guilty on two charges.

 

Judge Malinowska is also involved in the defence of free courts. In December 2019, the disciplinary officer charged her for criticizing judges applying to the National Council for the Judiciary for promotions. Furthermore, by invoking the arguments of other legal authorities, she challenged the legality of the new Council.

 

Krystian Markiewicz

 

Judge of the District Court in Katowice, prosecuted for criticism of “good change” in the courts, his activity in Iustitia, and his activity in defence of free courts. He is president of the largest association of independent judges in Poland, Iustitia. During his term of office, the association grew to become the largest defender of free courts while consolidating the judicial community at the same time.

 

That explains why Markiewicz became one of the greatest enemies of “good change” in the courts and was targeted by an organized smear campaign against independent judges. Nevertheless, he is being pursued by the disciplinary officer. He is investigating the gossip that tarnished his image and demands explanations for critical statements made in the media. In two cases, the disciplinary officer has already brought disciplinary charges against Markiewicz.

 

The first disciplinary proceedings against the head of Iustitia is for failing to attend a hearing with the disciplinary officer, and for public statements about why he does not recognise the disciplinary ombudsman. He was charged for this in November 2019 along with other Iustitia judges.

 

The second proceedings related to undermining the legitimacy of the new National Council for the Judiciary and with calling on judges to ignore the Law and Justice-appointed Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court. In December, he was hit with 55 disciplinary charges for this.

 

The attack on Markiewicz is intended to deter other judges from criticising the “good change” in the courts.

 

Ewa Mroczek

 

Judge of the District Court in Działdów, prosecuted for her judicial activities. In 2019, she was summoned to explain one of the rulings she had issued. The disciplinary officer did not like the fact that she had discontinued a case brought by the prosecution and of local importance. She dismissed the case because of blunders by the prosecutor’s office.

 

This case may be merely the pretext for prosecuting Judge Mroczek, who coolly accepted the new president of the court appointed by Minister Ziobro. At one meeting, she refused to shake hands with deputy disciplinary officer Michał Lasota, who comes from Działdów. Moreover, she has been involved in defending the independence of the judiciary.

 

Dariusz Mazur

 

Judge of the District Court in Kraków, prosecuted for criticism of judicial “reforms” by the current government and for his activity in the Themis association of judges, of which he is spokesman.

 

In July 2019, he was called to account for his statements to TVN24. The judge addressed the case of the vice-president of the Court of Appeal in Lublin. Jerzy Daniluk, who was transferred to Siedlce for adjudication so that he could additionally receive a housing allowance. The head of Iustitia. Krystian Markiewicz, and judge Barbara du Chateau, were also summoned to explain their statements for TVN24 in Daniluk’s case.

 

Marek Nawrocki

 

Judge of the District Court in Elbląg, prosecuted for his judicial activities. The disciplinary proceedings against him may be because he was in the panel that, in 2019, issued a ruling ascertaining excessive lengthiness of proceedings in one of the cases conducted by Michał Lasota. Of significance is the fact that Lasota is also the deputy disciplinary officer.

 

The disciplinary officer may have been displeased that the media discussed the ruling, unfavourable as it was for Lasota. The disciplinary officer has already questioned two judges from the panel that issued the ruling.

 

Nawrocki was most probably also dismissed for this reason by the Ministry of Justice from his delegation to the Court of Appeal in Gdańsk.

 

Marek Omelan

 

Judge of the Elbląg District Court, prosecuted for his activity as the court’s president. He was dismissed by Minister Ziobro’s ministry. Judge Omelan fell out of favour because, in 2017, he sought the dismissal of jury member Iwona Szmurło, a member of Solidarna Polska, the party of Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro.

 

Judge Omelan wanted her dismissal because she was said to behave vulgarly during a meeting in a family court case. However, Ziobro’s ministry decided that in his motion to the city council in Elbląg to dismiss the juror, Omelan violated the secrecy of deliberations, for which he was dismissed from the post of court president. The juror herself later resigned from the court, but further problems ensued for Omelan. The Ministry of Justice sought a disciplinary trial for him for allegedly violating the secrecy of judicial deliberations. This case is pending.

 

In the meantime, the chief disciplinary officer has already brought disciplinary charges against him. What for? Judge Omelan showed a copy of a document about the juror in his defence during a hearing with the disciplinary officer on the alleged violation of the secrecy of deliberations. The disciplinary officer determined that Judge Omelan, as former court president, should not be in possession of such a document.

 

Agnieszka Pilarczyk

 

Judge of the District Court for Kraków-Śródmieście, prosecuted for her judicial activity.

 

In 2017, she acquitted the doctors who had treated Minister Ziobro’s father. The doctors were accused of medical errors because Ziobro’s father died after a procedure.

 

Before the verdict was issued, Judge Pilarczyk was subjected to enormous pressure from the prosecutor’s office, headed by Zbigniew Ziobro. The prosecutor’s office started to review medical documentation from the treatment of Ziobro’s father and the opinions of experts given during the trial. The opinions cost as much as PLN 370,000 (in its verdict the court assigned their costs to the treasury).

 

Investigators also examined whether the hospital was mismanaged and whether medical records were falsified. A few days before the acquittal was pronounced, the prosecutor’s office initiated an investigation against judge Pilarczyk on the basis of a denunciation submitted by Minister Ziobro’s mother. The investigators checked whether Pilarczyk had properly granted such high remuneration to the experts, potentially overstepping the judge’s powers.

 

Irena Piotrowska

 

Judge of the Court of Appeal in Katowice, prosecuted for her judicial activities and for implementing the CJEU judgment.

 

In mid-December 2019, Judge Piotrowska was examining an appeal against a divorce verdict in a panel composed of Judge Aleksandra Janas and another judge promoted to the Court of Appeal by the new National Council of the Judiciary. Judges Janas and Piotrowska applied to the Supreme Court for a preliminary ruling on the status of the judge promoted by the new Council and whether judgments issued by him are valid. In doing so, they implemented the CJEU judgment concerning the new National Council of the Judiciary and the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court.

 

On the second day after they were questioned, the disciplinary officer initiated proceedings against them, and after a few days disciplinary charges were brought. He considered examination of the legality of the new Council to be an abuse of power. The disciplinary officer is also seeking to suspend them from their duties until a disciplinary verdict is reached.

 

Bartłomiej Przymusiński

 

Judge of the Poznań-Stare Miasto District Court, prosecuted for criticism of the “reforms” made by the current authorities in the courts and for his activity in Iustitia. Przymusiński is one of the faces of the independent courts movement. He is a member of the board of directors and spokesperson of the Iustitia Association of Polish Judges, which defends the judiciary against attempts to subjugate it to the ruling party. Przymusiński is also not afraid to criticise the “reforms” to the justice system carried out by the Law and Justice government and nominees associated with the party.

 

For one such statement about the new National Council of the Judiciary on TVN24, he was called upon by the disciplinary office to provide explanations as early as 2018.

 

In 2019, the Ministry of Justice abolished the department of the Poznań court chaired by Przymusiński. The judicial community linked this decision with his activity in Iustitia. However, Judge Przymusiński himself resigned from this function.

 

Judges from Poznan and Krakow

 

A collective disciplinary trial was initiated by the disciplinary officer against judges from the Krakow district and appellate courts. The disciplinary officer was displeased by resolutions adopted by local assemblies of judges, in which they criticised, among others, the President and the new National Council of the Judiciary. The disciplinary officer demanded that the presidents of these courts snitch on the authors of these resolutions and who voted for them.

 

Bartłomiej Starosta

 

Judge of the District Court in Sulęcin, prosecuted for criticising the “good change” in the judiciary, for his activity in Iustitia, and for his refusal to cooperate with the disciplinary officer. He is the chairman of the Iustitia Audit Committee.

 

Starosta was summoned for questioning by the disciplinary officer in connection with critical media statements about “good change” in the judiciary. He is also active on Twitter. However, Starosta refused to appear before the officer. He questioned the legitimacy of the summons to the hearing, and for this he was hit with the first charges in August.

 

Then, Starosta challenged the authority to prosecute judges of common courts by Minister Ziobro’s disciplinary officer. He was also charged for that, together with a group of judges from Iustitia.

 

Andrzej Sterkowicz

 

Judge of the District Court in Warsaw, formally prosecuted by the prosecutor’s office for private cases, but his judicial activity is in the background.

 

The prosecutor’s office charged him in conjunction with a conflict with his ex-wife. Perhaps, however, the prosecutor’s office would not have taken an interest in Judge Sterkowicz if the right-wing “Gazeta Polska” had not written about him. The weekly went after the judge because he had ruled in cases involving journalists from the newspaper, who were not satisfied with his verdicts.

 

Igor Tuleya

 

Judge of the Warsaw District Court, prosecuted for his judicial activities, for criticising the Law and Justice “reforms” in the judiciary, and for defending the independence of courts.

 

Tuleya is the second most hated judge in Poland by right-wingers and the Law and Justice party, next to Judge Łączewski. He fell out of favour in 2013 because of the verdict issued in the bribery case against cardiac surgeon Dr. G, who was accused of corruption by Ziobro and the CBA under the leadership of Mariusz Kamiński during the first Law and Justice government. In his justification of Dr. G’s acquittal, Tuleya compared the methods used by the CBA – when it was headed by Mariusz Kamiński – with those of the Stalinist era.

 

Tuleya also incurred the wrath of the right by a second ruling in 2017, concerning Law and Justice voting on the budget in the Column Hall in December 2016. He suggested that Law and Justice politicians may have perjured themselves, and ordered the investigation reopened. Now the disciplinary officer is conducting several inquiries that may lead to disciplinary action against him. These include:

 

– Did Tuleya reveal any material from the investigation of the vote in the Column Room – he referred to it in the verbal justification of the ruling ordering the re-investigation?
– Did he cross any boundaries in what he said about other judges in an interview for TVN24, in which he criticized, among others, the new National Council of the Judiciary?
– His participation in the Jerzy Owsiak festival and public debates about the justice system in Gdańsk and Lublin.
– His referral of questions to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling.

 

In connection with his ruling on Law and Justice voting on the budget in the Column Hall, a special internal department of the National Prosecutor’s Office is also conducting an investigation and Judge Tuleya is facing charges.

 

Kazimierz Wilczek

 

Judge of the District Court in Cracow, prosecuted for his judicial activities.

 

The disciplinary officer charged him for attempting to review the legality of the new National Council of the Judiciary. The judge was in a panel composed of three justices, alongside Wojciech Maczuga and Rafał Lisak, who were to examine an appeal against a verdict issued by a magistrate. The judges therefore asked for information on who appointed the magistrate – the new, unconstitutional Council or the old, legal Council.

 

The president of the Kraków court, Dagmara Pawełczyk-Woicka (a nominee of Minister Ziobro), herself also a member of the new National Council of the Judiciary, who reported the judges to the disciplinary officer, was displeased by Wilczek’s actions. The disciplinary officer quickly charged them for attempting to investigate the legality of the new Council, although it later turned out that the magistrate had been appointed by the old Council. The judges were brought up on disciplinary charges in November 2019 after the CJEU issued its verdict, and these were the first disciplinary proceedings in Poland for attempting to investigate the legality of the new Council. The disciplinary officer also motioned for the suspension of these judges from their duties until a disciplinary verdict is issued.

 

Dorota Zabłudowska

 

Judge of the District Court Gdańsk-Południe, prosecuted for her activity in Iustitia and for her activity in defence of judicial independence. She is a member of the board of Iustitia.

 

The disciplinary officer is pursuing her for accepting the Gdańsk Equality Award from the then Mayor of Gdańsk, Paweł Adamowicz. In 2019, the disciplinary officer demanded an explanation from her. Acceptance of the prize is rather a pretext for prosecuting Judge Zabłudowska, one of the faces of the movement in defence of free courts.

 

Waldemar Żurek

 

Judge of the District Court in Kraków, prosecuted for defending free courts in the legal National Council of the Judiciary and in the Themis association of judges. He is one of the most veteran judges in the defence of the judiciary’s independence. Żurek was an advocate of the independent National Council of the Judiciary, which was dissolved by Law and Justice in contravention of the Constitution. He is also a member of the board of Themis. Żurek is as disliked by the right wing and the current government as Judge Tuleya.

 

He has strongly criticized the subordination of the courts to the current government, and he is paying a steep price for it. In the District Court in Kraków, the new president of the court, Dagmara Pawelczyk-Woicka (a nominee of Minister Ziobro), dismissed him from the function of court spokesman in 2018 and moved him to another department. The judicial community perceived this as harassment against Żurek. He appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which, on the basis of his case, presented questions to the CJEU. Judge Żurek was also investigated by the CBA.

 

Judge Żurek is also being prosecuted by the disciplinary officer for refusing to take cases in his new department, because he was waiting for his appeal against the decision to transfer to another department to be concluded. Therefore, the new president of the court reported him. Moreover, Żurek is being prosecuted for selling his tractor – he allegedly failed to file a tax return after the sale.

 

Żurek may also have problems because of his participation in a debate on the justice system in Lublin – Judge Tuleya has also been summoned to explain his presence there. Żurek is strongly backed by judges of the Lesser Poland judicial community, who have defended and supported him in numerous resolutions.

 

The judge has already had his first disciplinary trial at the Disciplinary Court in Katowice, for refusing to move to a new department. And in September 2019, he was hit with another disciplinary charge for criticising on Twitter Kamil Zaradkiewicz, who was admitted to the Supreme Court owing to the new National Council of the Judiciary. Zaradkiewicz, a former employee of the legal Constitutional Tribunal, began collaborating with the Ministry of Justice controlled by Minister Ziobro.



Author


Journalist covering law and politics for OKO.press. Previously journalist at Gazeta Wyborcza, Rzeczpospolita, Polska The Times, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.


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Published

January 10, 2020

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