Illegal National Council for Judiciary closes off the takeover of the Supreme Court. Landing of neo-judges in the Civil Chamber
The neo-NCJ has started to choose more neo-judges for the Supreme Court. It could nominate as many as 12. The candidates are judges who were already promoted under the current government as well as an assistant to Elzbieta Karska, the wife of PiS MEP Karol Karski. Voting will be held on 18 May.
The selection of more neo-judges of the Supreme Court shows how the PiS government’s compromise with the European Commission on restoring the rule of law looks in practice. On the one hand, PiS is making tactical, sham changes to unblock billions of euros for Poland from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. On the other hand, this government’s nominees are doing everything to cast the current changes in the courts in concrete.
The illegal neo-National Council for Judiciary (neo-NCJ) is also doing this by nominating more neo-judges. It is being assisted by the President, who is handing them appointments.
Whereas, it transpires from numerous rulings of the CJEU, the ECtHR, as well as the Polish Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court, that the main source of problems with the rule of law is the politicised and illegal neo-NCJ. Because it is infecting the whole of the justice system with defective nominations for judges.
However, the neo-NCJ is not concerned about that. And now it has started to choose more neo-judges in a major recruitment to the legal Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court. Twelve candidates ultimately applied for 15 posts. Their public interviews started on Wednesday, 10 May 2023. Voting will be held on 18 May.
These nominations will result in neo-judges taking control of the Civil Chamber for good. There are already 15 neo-judges in it today. And it is headed by Joanna Misztal-Konecka, a neo-judge who serves as the president of the Chamber.
Further recruitment is planned for the near future to the Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs, which was established by PiS. Six candidates are running for two positions, including former neo-NCJ members Jarosław Dudzicz and Maciej Mitera. PiS did not appoint them to the neo-NCJ’s second term of office, so they are taking their chances with the Supreme Court.
This article presents all the candidates to the Supreme Court.
How neo-judges are controlling the Supreme Court
Further appointments to the Supreme Court will consolidate the position of the neo-judges, but they already have a majority. There are 46 of them, and 44 legal judges. So they can outvote everything at the General Assembly of Supreme Court Judges, which is the self-government of the judges. Małgorzata Manowska, who serves as the First President of the Supreme Court is a neo-judge.
The neo-judges also control the Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs, which was established by PiS. There are only neo-judges there (17), and it is headed by the acting president of the Chamber, Joanna Lemańska. She is a good friend of President Andrzej Duda.
The neo-judges have also just gained their president of the legal Criminal Chamber. The President appointed neo-judge Zbigniew Kapiński to this position on Wednesday, 10 May 2023, replacing Michał Laskowski (whose term of office has ended). However, there are still more legal judges in this chamber (22) than neo-judges (9).
Anna Dziergawka, who was nominated by the neo-NCJ and who boasted that she has the support of a local bishop, is still awaiting appointment to the chamber. She is vice-president of the Regional Court in Bydgoszcz and a neo-judge of that court.
Kapiński’s appointment to the office of president of the Criminal Chamber will also result in the neo-judges gaining an advantage in the Supreme Court’s College (a type of judicial self-government, which gives opinions on some of the decisions in the Supreme Court). This is because Kapiński will take Laskowski’s place in the College.
The legal judges of the Supreme Court now only fully control the Labour and Social Security Chamber. There are 12 of them there, and President Piotr Prusinowski comes from their ranks. There are five neo-judges there. But three more nominated by the neo-NCJ in March 2023 are still waiting to be appointed by the President. This was a repeat recruitment, because the original results were overturned by the Supreme Court.
The following have been nominated to this Chamber and are awaiting appointment by the President:
– Dr Hab. Agnieszka Góra-Błaszczykowska – judge at the Voivodship Administrative Court in Warsaw from the War Studies Academy. The neo-NCJ did not promote her in 2021, but she received a nomination to the Supreme Court in the re-run of this recruitment. Did it help that, in the meantime, she was one of the reviewers of former Deputy Minister of Justice Lukasz Piebiak’s doctoral thesis? She gave him a positive review.
– Krzysztof Grzesiowski, legal counsel and advisor to the Lubuskie Voivod from PiS,
– Dr Hab. Agnieszka Zywicka of the Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce.
Who is applying to the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court
Twelve people are currently running for 15 positions in the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court. There were more, but several people withdrew their applications. Their public interviews were held on Wednesday, 10 May 2023.
Legal Counsel Piotr Sokal presented himself. He had already applied to the Supreme Court before. To no avail. He is a doctor of law from Jastrzębie-Zdrój. He ran for the post of city councillor from PiS’s list in the local elections in 2018. He did not win a seat. He received 1.09% of the votes.
Sokal communicated with the neo-NCJ online. He performed poorly. The members of the neo-NCJ had few questions for him. He answered briefly and perfunctorily. He did not elaborate on his thoughts. Also, the fact that there was a problem with his voice did not help. He could hardly be heard, but this was a problem with his computer. Furthermore, he was drowned out by the sounds of the renovation works that could be heard near him.
The interviews of the candidates will end on 18 May, and then the neo-NCJ will vote on who it will nominate.
In addition to Sokal, the candidates to the Supreme Court are:
– Tomasz Szczurowski of the Court of Appeal in Warsaw. He is a neo-judge. President Duda appointed him to the court of appeal in October 2021. So he has not worked for long at this court. He was previously a judge of the Regional Court in Warsaw. He is affiliated with the faculty of law of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University.
– Dariusz Rutkowski, a judge of the Regional Court in Wrocław. He had previously run for a post with the Disciplinary Chamber, but was unsuccessful. His wife, Aleksandra Rutkowska, worked on secondment at the Ministry of Justice. She was previously a District Court judge from Wrocław. The new NCJ gave her an appointment to the Regional Court in Warsaw. Both had previously signed lists of support for candidates to the neo-NCJ.
– Piotr Telusiewicz from the Regional Court in Lublin. He was appointed to the Regional Court in 2019, receiving his promotion from the new NCJ. In other words, he is a neo-judge. He is interested in the position of the family in the law. He defends the position of the family. He is a lecturer and head of the Family Law Department at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, one of two such departments in Poland. The other is at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University. He had already run for office at the Supreme Court, but was unsuccessful.
– Bartłomiej Starosta, a judge of the District Court in Sulęcin. A member of Iustitia, he is involved in the defence of the free courts. He is a so-called kamikaze candidate. He is running to test the fairness of the recruitment and to later challenge the outcome to the Supreme Court.
– Krzysztof Brancewicz, a legal counsel from Gdańsk.
– Agnieszka Jurkowska-Chocyk from the Court of Appeal in Lublin. She is the head of the civil division. She is a neo-judge. The President appointed her to that court in October 2019. She signed the list of support to the neo-NCJ for former Deputy Minister of Justice Lukasz Piebiak.
– Professor Dr Hab. Grzegorz Tylec from the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin.
– Professor Dr Hab. Adam Doliwa from the University of Bialystok.
– Paweł Bucoń of the Regional Court in Lublin, affiliated with the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. He is a neo-judge. The President appointed him to that court in October 2020. Previously, since 2015, he had been a District Court judge in Biała Podlaska. He had also worked on secondment at Zbigniew Ziobro’s Ministry of Justice. He was also an assistant at the illegal Disciplinary Chamber, and is currently an assistant to the judges at the Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs.
‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ wrote about his work in the Chamber. It revealed that Bucoń works for a neo-judge of the Supreme Court, Elżbieta Karska, privately the wife of PiS MEP Karol Karski. She had previously been unsuccessfully put forward by PiS for election to the office of an ECtHR judge. Her candidacy failed. She did, however, receive a nomination from the illegal neo-NCJ to the Chamber of Control.
As an assistant, Bucoń prepares drafts of justifications of rulings for her at the Supreme Court, and is even expected to drive her around by car. ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ also revealed that the Ministry of Justice intervened in the case, allegedly demanding that Bucoń be an assistant only to Karska. The ministry intervened because he works at the Supreme Court on secondment from Ziobro’s ministry.
– Professor Dr Hab. Marcin Trzebiatowski from the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin.
– Rafal Krupiński, a legal counsel from Lower Silesia. He previously ran for office with the illegal Disciplinary Chamber, but was unsuccessful.
Who is applying to the Chamber of Control
The illegal neo-NCJ is still to make a decision in the recruitment to two positions in the Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs formed by PiS. Six people are running for these positions. They are:
– Jarosław Dudzicz, a member of the illegal neo-NCJ of the first term of office. PiS did not support him for the second term. An investigation into anti-Semitic posts in the Internet could have backfired for him. They were posted by a web user using the nickname Jorry 123. The prosecutor’s office attributes these posts to Dudzicz. He is still the president of the Regional Court in Gorzów Wielkopolski. He was a member of the Kasta/Antykasta [Eng.: Caste/Anti-caste] discussion group on WhatsApp, comprising judges close to former Deputy Justice Minister Łukasz Piebiak.
– Maciej Mitera, a member of the illegal neo-NCJ of the first term of office. PiS did not support him for a second term either, because he may have been too soft. This is because he did not belong to the hawk faction of the neo-NCJ which was oriented towards a harsh course in the courts. He was a member of the Kasta/Antykasta discussion group on WhatsApp, comprising judges close to former Deputy Justice Minister Łukasz Piebiak. Today Mitera is a rank-and-file District Court judge.
– Professor Grzegorz Pastuszko from the University of Rzeszów. He specialises in constitutional law. He is a member of the academic council of the Justice Institute, which is subordinated to the Ministry of Justice. He has published papers about judicial councils in Germany there. He was member of the Polish-Hungarian Research Platform team formed by the Justice Institute and the Ferenc Mádl Institute for Comparative Law. He ran unsuccessfully for the position of the Polish judge at the CJEU.
– Honorata Lopianowska, a judge of the Voivodship Administrative Court in Warsaw. She works at Minister Ziobro’s ministry – she is the director of the legislative department of the court structure.
– Piotr Telusiewicz and Paweł Bucoń, who are also currently running for office in the Civil Chamber.
The article was published in Polish in OKO.press, 10 May 2023.