The President promoted Ziobro’s people and judges from the Kasta/Antykasta group. This is what the compromise with the EU looks like
The President has given high promotions to judges associated with Minister Ziobro, members of the illegal NCJ and the partner of the head of the neo-NCJ. At the same time, independent judges are experiencing further repressions. This shows how the President and the PiS authorities will implement the compromise with the EU in practice.
President Andrzej Duda appointed a further group of 26 neo-judges on Friday 13 January 2023. At more or less the same time, the Sejm, passed unconstitutional amendments to the Acts on the courts with PiS’s votes – and with the majority of the opposition abstaining – in order to unlock billions for Poland for the National Recovery Plan.
This shows that the current authorities want to obtain EU funds at any cost so as to win the forthcoming elections. But this simultaneously shows how the compromise with the European Commission will be implemented in practice.
The neo-judges who the President has now appointed constitute a further group of defectively appointed people. They received their nominations from the illegal, politicised neo-NCJ, whose status has been undermined by Poland’s Supreme Administrative Court and Supreme Court, as well as by the ECtHR and the CJEU. The neo-NCJ is the main source of the problems with the rule of law in Poland. But the PiS authorities and the President are not concerned about that and are continuing to infect the courts with defective nominations for neo-judges.
Who the President appointed is also a sign for the European Commission. Because on the day that Zbigniew Ziobro’s Solidarna Polska voted against the bill to unlock billions for the National Recovery Plan, President Andrzej Duda rewarded judges affiliated with Ziobro, among others, with promotions. This included supporters of a hard line in the courts. Similarly, the President strengthened the influence of Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro in the courts.
Importantly, the President did not even have a problem with the fact that some of those promoted were members of the Kasta/Antykasta [Eng.: Caste/Anti-Caste] group. These are Rafal Puchalski and Dariusz Drajewicz. The wife of a member of this group, namely Joanna Kołodziej-Michałowicz, a member of the neo-NCJ, was also promoted. The partner of the head of the neo-NCJ, Dagmara Pawełczyk-Woicka, namely Dariusz Pawłyszcze, was also promoted.
In other words, the PiS authority is winking at the EU that it wants a compromise. But the President is simultaneously handing out defective appointments to neo-judges, appointing judges to help the authorities with the ‘reforms’ of the courts – including members of the illegal NCJ, which is the main source of the problems with the rule of law in Poland – and is contributing to the further devastation of the Polish courts. This should be a clear sign for the EC as to what the PiS government intends to do and that its concessions are sham and tactical.
And repressions for independent judges
The fact that Ziobro’s people have been repressing independent judges in recent weeks also suggests that the current compromise between PiS and the EC is just a tactical ploy before the elections. Another absurd disciplinary case was brought against Judge Maciej Ferek of the Regional Court in Kraków, who is one of the judges still suspended by the illegal Disciplinary Chamber.
The other judge who is still suspended, Piotr Gąciarek from the Regional Court in Warsaw, is also being prosecuted. For his critical posts in Twitter about Ziobro’s and his people’s ‘reforms’; a director from the Ministry of Justice reported him to the disciplinary commissioner.
Meanwhile, in the last days of 2022, Judge Dorota Lutostańska of the Regional Court in Olsztyn was forcibly transferred to another division. She was transferred from the criminal appellate division (which reviews the judgments of the district courts) to the criminal division, which tries cases in the first instance.
Lutostańska had previously been prosecuted for wearing a T-shirt with the word Konstytucja (Eng.: Constitution] on it. The judges from Olsztyn understood that her transfer was a repression, because she had been adjudicating for 14 years in the appellate division.
The decision to transfer her was made by the vice-president of the Regional Court in Olsztyn, Marcin Czapski, Minister Ziobro’s nominee. He is a former prosecutor and a neo-judge. And recently, Michał Lasota, who, as one of Minister Ziobro’s three disciplinary commissioners, prosecutes independent judges, was made president of that court. It was he who pressed disciplinary charges against Lutostańska for the T-shirt with the word Konstytucja on it.
President promotes members of the Kasta/Antykasta group
The President gave nominations to the higher courts on Friday 13 January 2023, among others, to:
– Rafał Puchalski became a judge of the Court of Appeal in Rzeszów. He had been a district judge from Jarosław until now. His career started to bloom at the time of the PiS government. He worked on secondment at the Ministry of Justice and then became president of the Regional Court in Rzeszów. PiS also chose him in the Sejm to be a member of the neo-NCJ for the first and second terms of office. He is currently the deputy head of this illegal body.
Puchalski had previously received a nomination from the neo-NCJ to the illegal Disciplinary Chamber, but the President did not appoint him. Therefore, the neo-NCJ gave him a nomination to the Court of Appeal in Rzeszów. It is speculated that he has a good chance of becoming president of that court as well, as there has been a vacancy there since October 2022.
Puchalski appears in the context of the hate scandal. Onet wrote that he helped edit Emilia Szmydt’s libel regarding Krystian Markiewicz, the head of Iustitia. He was also a member of the Kasta/Antykasta discussion group on WhatsApp, which mainly brought together judges close to former Deputy Minister of Justice Łukasz Piebiak.
Puchalski, as president of the regional court, fell into conflict with judges from the criminal division, who sued him for unequal treatment. And he initiated disciplinary action against them for applying an interpretation of the law that was favourable for the citizens.
Puchalski also adjudicated on secondment in the Court of Appeal in Rzeszów, but the Supreme Court overturned the judgments passed with his involvement. Because the secondment given to him by the Ministry of Justice was defective.
– Dariusz Drajewicz became a judge of the Court of Appeal in Warsaw. He, like Puchalski, jumped into the position of judge of the court of appeal from the lowest district court level. Because, until now, he had been a rank and file judge of the District Court for Warsaw-Mokotów. So he skipped the regional court level.
Drajewicz is also a member of the neo-NCJ of the first and second terms. He is considered to be in the hawk faction. And, like Puchalski, he belonged to the Kasta/Antykasta discussion group. He had also received a nomination to the illegal Disciplinary Chamber, but the President did not appoint him. Therefore, the neo-NCJ gave him a nomination to the Court of Appeal. Drajewicz received the nomination even though the legal NCJ had previously denied him promotion as many as 20 times.
Drajewicz was known for holding several positions at once. He was also the vice-president of the Regional Court in Warsaw, but, as TVN24 revealed, he was not overworked in that position. He adjudicated on secondment in the Court of Appeal.
His partner, Joanna Oliwa, also received a nomination from the neo-NCJ – she became a judge of the Regional Court in Warsaw.
Promotions for the partner of the head of the NCJ and for a judge known for her family promotions
Others recently appointed to higher courts by the President include:
– Dariusz Pawłyszcze. He ended up in the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court. Until now, he was a judge of the Regional Court in Kraków. Privately, he is the partner of Dagmara Pawełczyk-Woicka, former president of the Regional Court in Kraków nominated by Minister Ziobro and currently head of the illegal neo-NCJ. In her school days, Pawełczyk-Woicka was Zbigniew Ziobro’s classmate. Since the first term of office of the neo-NCJ, of which she was a member, she was promoted to the office of judge of the regional court in Kraków. In recent years, Pawłyszcze was the director of the National School of the Judiciary and Public Prosecution, which is subordinated to Minister Ziobro.
– Joanna Kołodziej-Michałowicz became a judge of the Regional Court in Słupsk. She had been waiting for several years for an appointment from the President. She is a member of the neo-NCJ of the first and second terms of office, and is currently in the presidium of this illegal body.
Kołodziej-Michałowicz is known for her family promotions. She herself received a nomination from the neo-NCJ, of which she is a member. But the neo-NCJ also nominated her husband Andrzej Michałowicz, president of the Regional Court in Słupsk. He was promoted to the office of regional court judge. Michałowicz was also a member of the Kasta/Antikasta group.
Kolodziej-Michalowicz’s sister, Ewa Kolodziej-Dubowska, also received a nomination from the neo-NCJ. She was nominated to the office of judge of the Regional Court in Białystok.
– Waldemar Krok became a judge of the Court of Appeal in Rzeszów. It is unofficially said that he is well acquainted with Puchalski. Until now, Judge Krok was the president of the District Court in Dębica and a judge of that court. He signed lists of support for neo-NCJ candidates, which gave him a promotion.
– Jacek Saramaga became a judge of the Court of Appeal in Wrocław. He is also president of that court.
– Anna Olszewska became a judge of the Court of Appeal in Kraków. This is a surprising and amazing promotion. Olszewska is a legal counsel serving companies. Since 2009, she was a legal counsel at the Detention Centre in Kraków. The inspector from the court of appeal negatively assessed her candidacy. He concluded that she did not have the appropriate background to adjudicate as a judge of the court of appeal. Even so, the neo-NCJ gave her the nomination.
Translated by Roman Wojtasz
The article was published in Polish in OKO.press on 13 January 2023.