The authority cuts off a hand

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Leading journalist and commentator on legal affairs in Poland, a columnist for Polityka weekly. Her latest book ‘Sędziowie mówią. Zamach…

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A member of the government removes a judge from adjudicating during a court session, forcing the stoppage of adjudication. Such situations did not even arise under martial law.



Minister Ziobro removed Judge Joanna Hetnarowicz-Sikora of the District Court in Słupsk from her duties pending consideration of her case by the Disciplinary Chamber. The order was served on her in the courtroom, during a session. What could be more damning evidence of the systemic lack of guarantees of independence than a member of the government removing a judge from office while the judge was adjudicating?

 

The justification is Article 130 of the Act on the Structure of Ordinary Courts which stipulates that immediate stoppage of a judge’s official activity should be ordered if he or she is apprehended while committing an intentional crime or if this is necessary because of the nature of the act, the gravity of the court or the important interests of the service.

 

Judge Hetnarowicz-Sikora was removed from the courtroom, interrupting her session. This would have been possible in order to protect the gravity of the court and the interests of the service if, for instance, she was adjudicating in a drunken state or under the influence of drugs. Or if she had gone insane. Or if it was known that she had explosives with her and intended to blow up the courtroom.

 

So what did she do? Two and a half months earlier, she removed a judge nominated with involvement of the neo-NCJ from adjudicating because of doubts about the legality of that judge’s appointment.

 

PiS follows the Stalinist principle that a hand raised against the authority must be cut off. The unconditional observance of this principle is supposed to stifle resistance. Such stories – of a judge being removed while adjudicating in a courtroom – may indeed have taken place in Stalinist times. No such cases were heard of after 1956. Of course, judges were removed from office under martial law, but not while adjudicating.

 

The authorities are taking the dispute with the EU to the next level. Zbigniew Ziobro says we may have to give up applying for EU money, and removes the judge during a session on the next day. What next? Arresting the judge in the courtroom?

 

Calling such events a ‘chilling effect’ is a euphemism.

 

History has come full circle.



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Leading journalist and commentator on legal affairs in Poland, a columnist for Polityka weekly. Her latest book ‘Sędziowie mówią. Zamach…


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Published

February 11, 2022

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