Public prosecutor enters the home of a judge fighting for independent courts in Poland
The public prosecutor, assisted by the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CAB), entered Judge Beata Morawiec’s house a little after 6 a.m. on 18 September. Threatening to search the house, he took her official laptop containing sensitive data. Judge Morawiec is the president of the Themis association of judges, which defends the courts and criticizes the Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Ziobro.
The text is based on an article posted in Polish at OKO.press on 18 September 2020.
Judge Beata Morawiec from the Regional Court in Krakow was awoken by her intercom on Friday, 18 September 2020. It was around 6.30 a.m. A prosecutor and two CAB agents stood in front of her house. They were holding a decision of the National Prosecutor’s Office on the ‘voluntary handover of items’.
The decision was issued by prosecutor Michał Walendzik from the internal affairs department of the National Public Prosecutor’s Office, who was appointed to prosecute judges and prosecutors.
The judge let the prosecutor and CAB agents into her home. She heard that they wanted her to give them an expert opinion, which she wrote in 2013 at the request of the Court of Appeal in Krakow, as well as the electronic media on which she had prepared it. The judge was warned that if she did not hand them over, the prosecutor would search her house. Morawiec voluntarily gave them a pen drive with the opinion and her official computer, which contains notes related to cases in which she had adjudicated and draft judgments.
The CAB’s visit with the prosecutor lasted about an hour. During the visit, the prosecutor kept leaving the room to confer with someone by phone. The same group appeared in court at 10.30 a.m. – Morawiec said that she had a copy of the expert opinion there. They took the copy and the printer on which the judge had printed it.
The judge will file a complaint with the court about the prosecutor
The raid on Judge Beata Morawiec’s house is related to an investigation being conducted by the internal affairs department of the National Prosecutor’s Office. In this investigation, the prosecutor’s office wants to press criminal charges against the judge and, to this end, submitted a request to the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court to cancel the judge’s immunity.
The prosecutor’s office wants to charge Beata Morawiec for an allegedly fictitious agreement of 2013 concluded with the Court of Appeal in Krakow. The prosecutor’s office claims the judge took PLN 5,000, but did not prepare an opinion. The judge denies this and makes the assurance that the opinion is there. She spoke about this in the media and perhaps this was the reason for the prosecutor coming to her house on Friday.
The judge is also under threat of being charged with allegedly receiving a telephone from a defendant in 2012 for passing sentence in his favour. ‘Nobody gave me a telephone. I only buy telephones from shops. I do not know the person who was supposed to have given it to me,’ says Judge Beata Morawiec.
After Friday’s raid, the judge appointed a proxy to handle her case.
She will file a complaint against the prosecutor’s decision regarding the handover of the item. ‘I consider the actions of the prosecutor’s office as harassment with respect to me. They want to choke me. I have not received any criminal charges, but they come to my home looking for evidence on me,’ says Morawiec.
Who is Judge Morawiec?
The prosecutor entered the home of a judge who is recognizable in Poland and is known for defending the rule of law and free courts.
Beata Morawiec is the former president of the Regional Court in Krakow and president of the Themis association of judges, which, together with the Iustitia association of judges, has been defending judges against repression for several years.
This context is important because it explains why coming to Morawiec’s home and threatening her with criminal charges was no accident. Accusing such a judge of accepting a telephone as a bribe can be used to discredit independent judges.
The prosecutor’s investigation needs to be approached with caution.
Beata Morawiec fell foul of Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro. She was dismissed from the post of president of the Regional Court in Krakow in 2017 as part of the national purge of court presidents. Minister Ziobro dismissed her in an atmosphere of suspicion. In an announcement posted on the ministry’s website, her name was linked to an investigation of the public prosecutor, which did not apply to her. She was also accused of allegedly bad work.
Morawiec was the only former court president in Poland who sued the Minister of Justice regarding the protection of her reputation and won the case against him in the regional court with a non-final judgment. Ziobro appealed and the case is pending.
There are currently speculations among the judicial community as to whether the current criminal charges against Judge Morawiec could be a consequence of the fact that she fell foul of the minister and humiliated him by winning the case.
The charges that the judge may face should also be viewed with caution. The prosecutor’s office says that evidence of her guilt was obtained during a major investigation lasting several years into irregularities at the Krakow court of appeal. But it is not known who testified to what about the judge and what they were counting on in return. This is important.
Furthermore, Onet posted an article in 2019 which showed that prosecutors were allegedly persuading the former accountant of the Krakow court of appeal to make accusations about ‘known’ judges from Krakow with her testimony. The National Prosecutor’s Office then claimed that it knew nothing about that.
And it so happens that Judge Beata Morawiec, among others, is a ‘known’ judge from Krakow.
Translated by Roman Wojtasz