President gives an excuse
The reform of disciplinary proceedings is to involve the – repeatedly announced – liquidation of the Disciplinary Chamber and the establishment of a new Chamber, the Professional Liability Chamber. The judges of what has been the Disciplinary Chamber to date are to be parcelled out to other chambers, which means they will be dominated by neo-judges. Well, unless they choose to retire – on very financially-attractive terms.
Judges are to be recruited to the Professional Liability Chamber by drawing lots for 33 candidates from among all Supreme Court judges (with the exception of the presidents of the chambers). The President is to select 11 from this group. Given the Supreme Court’s current staffing level, this means that would be able to select only neo-judges. Or add in a few judges so that there is no discussion.
The judges would only work in the Liability Chamber for a part of their salaries, while they would earn the rest in other chambers. This would kill three birds with one stone: it would dominate the chambers with neo-judges and maintain political control over disciplinary judgments. It would also allow the state to save on salaries, as the neo-judges of the Disciplinary Chamber were receiving 40% higher salaries.
Another gain for the authorities from this bill is to be an additional disciplinary tort, which the president described as a “refusal of administration of justice”. This presumably applies to the refusal to adjudicate with neo-judges: many judges have made such a declaration in order not to contribute to the increase in the number of questionable judgments.
Another proposal is supposedly to argue to the EU that, since it is alleging the Disciplinary Chamber of being biased, its decisions will now be subject to review. In other words, any judge judged “for adjudicating” can request a repeat review of his case by the Liability Chamber. This will apply to the four judges whose court presidents suspended them for overturning rulings of neo-judges, and whose suspension was upheld by the Disciplinary Chamber: Maciej Ferek, Piotr Gąciarek, Maciej Rutkowski and Krzysztof Chmielewski. Possibly also Paweł Juszczyszyn, who is being prosecuted for trying to establish whose signatures appear on the lists of support for the neo-NCJ. Only the question is what is the difference between the consideration of a case by neo-judges from the Disciplinary Chamber and the consideration of a case by neo-judges from the Liability Chamber?
The next proposals are just as absurd as the recent lex Kaczyński. In this case, the president is proposing a “test of a judge’s impartiality”: every citizen will be able to demand such a test for the judge examining his case. This also applies to previous judgments, from the beginning of the times of the People’s Republic of Poland. Apart from the fact that, if people really wanted to take advantage of this, it would clog up the already overburdened courts and stop the examination of cases, a special Act was passed after 1989, according to which thousands of political judgments were overturned at the request of the interested parties and compensation was paid to the people. Will the judges now be reviewed in connection with litigation over boundaries of property from 50 years ago?!
The bill does not improve anything; it makes things far worse. It is intended to give the EU an excuse to withdraw from blocking the money. It’s definitely not worth the effort. If the EU were to take advantage of this pretext, the authorities would claim that the CJEU’s judgments regarding the Disciplinary Chamber can be thrown in the bin. And sooner or later it will transpire that these new regulations will need to be contested before the CJEU. And the fun and games will start all over again.
Translated by Roman Wojtasz
Published in Polish on Ewa Siedlecka’s blog at Polityka.pl.