The illegal Disciplinary Chamber revoked Judge Beata Morawiec’s immunity under the cover of night
‘These are inquisitorial proceedings. This has nothing to do with a fair trial,’ said Judge Beata Morawiec’s defence attorneys. The judge can still appeal against the Disciplinary Chamber’s decision
The Disciplinary Chamber revoked Judge Beata Morawiec’s immunity, who is known for defending the independent courts in Poland. It also suspended Morawiec from her official duties and cut her salary by half.
This is the first case in which judicial immunity has been revoked for a judge who is known for defending the independence of the judiciary and criticizing Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro’s ‘reforms’ so that the prosecutor’s office is able to prosecute him.
The judgment was issued on Monday, 12 October 2020 after 9 p.m. by Adam Tomczyński from the Disciplinary Chamber. The internal affairs department of the National Prosecutor’s Office, which had been set up during the PiS (Law and Justice party) rule to prosecute judges and prosecutors, wanted Judge Beata Morawiec’s immunity to be revoked.
This department wants to press two far-fetched charges against the judge regarding the alleged acceptance of a defendant’s telephone for a favourable judgment in 2012 and allegedly taking PLN 5,000 for a fictitious opinion ordered by the Court of Appeal in Krakow in 2013. While revoking the immunity, Adam Tomczyński from the Disciplinary Chamber held that there was reasonable suspicion that the judge had committed these acts. He considered that the materials in the possession of the prosecutor’s office contain evidence of this in the form of testimonies and documents.
Judge Morawiec denies the allegations. She says she did not take a telephone from anyone. She also prepared the opinion and still has it in her work computer. In order to check this, a prosecutor conducted a dawn raid at the judge’s house and confiscated her computer under threat of conducting a search. This is how the immunity protecting the judge was breached.
Judges do not believe the charges against Beata Morawiec
The community of judges relates the allegations with the fact that she is the president of the Themis association of judges, which, together with the Iustitia association of judges, defends the free courts and criticizes minister Ziobro’s ‘reforms’. It is also not without significance that, in January 2019, the judge won a civil case against Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro in a non-final judgment.
The minister is to apologize for the ministry’s communication defaming her reputation, which was posted in the ministry’s website after Morawiec was dismissed from the position of president of the Regional Court in Krakow. The judgment could have humiliated Ziobro.
As we disclosed, after a verdict that was favourable for the judge was issued, the prosecutor’s office suddenly questioned Mirosław B., a former telephone vendor, who gave testimony against the judge. He testified to the prosecutors, among other things, that he had spoken to the judge, who was supposed to have promised him a fair judgment and that he would leave a telephone for her in the secretarial office after she passes sentence.
However, few people believe in the acceptance of the alleged bribe in the form of a telephone, while Beata Morawiec refuted the allegation of a fictitious agreement for an opinion for the court of appeal with an expert opinion prepared for her by an expert. It transpires from this that the opinion was actually prepared in 2013. The defence attorneys submitted it to the case files in the Disciplinary Chamber on Monday.
The judges are fully supportive of Morawiec. During the session of the Disciplinary Chamber, they took part in a solidarity rally in front of the Supreme Court and in front of courts throughout Poland.
Tomczyński dismissed all the requests of the defence attorneys
20 years ago, Adam Tomczyński, who revoked Judge Morawiec’s immunity, was a judge in the bankruptcy division. Before his appointment to the Disciplinary Chamber, he was a lawyer and was praising the current authorities on Twitter. When he was in the Disciplinary Chamber, he was on the bench that suspended Judge Paweł Juszczyszyn.
On Monday, Tomczyński started the meeting at 11 a.m. and was pressing to issue the decision from the very beginning. Judge Morawiec’s defence attorneys, namely Warsaw-based attorney Radosław Baszuk, Judge Dr. Maciej Czajka from the Regional Court in Krakow, member of the Themis association of judges, and Judge Anna Korwin-Piotrowska from the Regional Court in Opole, were submitting various procedural motions from the very beginning. Meanwhile, Tomczyński set them aside.
The defence attorneys were requesting that the session be public and that the person considering the motion of the National Prosecutor’s Office be selected by lot. Adam Tomczyński set these motions aside, only admitting the public in for the sentencing at night – he allowed the media to enter at that time.
During the breaks in the session, the defence attorneys told journalists that Tomczyński ‘did not even read’ some of their motions.
‘Mr. Tomczyński did not consider it appropriate to pick them up and analyse the arguments. This entitles us to conclude that we are taking part in the implementation of the planned scenario, which will end with a resolution to revoke the immunity,’ said Counsellor Radosław Baszuk. And he added:
‘These are inquisitorial proceedings. This has nothing to do a fair trial.’
Interestingly, in addition to the defence attorneys, Prosecutor Przemysław Radzik, Minister Ziobro’s disciplinary commissioner, who is known for prosecuting independent judges for whatever, was also in the Disciplinary Chamber’s courtroom.
The defence attorneys then filed a petition to remove Adam Tomczyński from examining the case of the immunity. Adam Roch from the Disciplinary Chamber (he was previously a prosecutor) received this petition. But Roch set this petition of the defence attorneys aside in part. In the case of the remainder, regarding the allegation of Tomczyński’s lack of independence, Roch passed the petition of the defence attorneys to the Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs Chamber of the Supreme Court.
However, this does not stop the proceedings before the Disciplinary Chamber (this arises from the muzzle act that was passed by PiS) and Adam Tomczyński began to substantively examine the motion of the National Prosecutor’s Office to revoke the immunity. It was already 7 p.m., namely three hours after the end of the Supreme Court’s normal working day.
In the last phase of the session, between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., the defence attorneys wanted to submit one more petition to return the case to the prosecutor’s office to supplement the shortcomings. But Tomczyński set this petition aside. He took the floor from the defence attorneys and told them to sit down.
Morawiec can still appeal
Judge Beata Morawiec was not in the Disciplinary Chamber on Monday because she does not recognize this Chamber as being a legal court. While the case regarding her immunity was in progress, she was working normally in court.
TVP1’s news, ‘Wiadomości’, broadcast an attack on the judge before the hearing in the Disciplinary Chamber. Materials were broadcast twice, on Saturday, 10 October, and Sunday, 11 October, in the main news broadcast, ‘Wiadomości’, in which excerpts from the testimony that is supposed to incriminate the judge were broadcast.
‘Wiadomości’ broadcast further materials about Judge Morawiec on Monday, 12 October, when the Disciplinary Chamber was still in session. Testimonies taken out of context from the files of the prosecutor’s office were played once again in order to consolidate the knowledge of TVP’s viewers.
Testimony incriminating Judge Morawiec was given by one of the defendants and a former director, as well as a former accountant of the Court of Appeal in Krakow. The problem is that the prosecutor’s office has already charged the former director and the former accountant themselves in a larger case of irregularities in the Court of Appeal in Krakow. And that is why their testimony needs to be approached with great deal of reserve and doubt. All the more so that Judge Morawiec herself refuted the truth of one of the testimonies in which she was accused of preparing a fictitious opinion for the court of appeal for PLN 5,000 in 2013.
Now, the judge is considering filing an action against TVP, because she felt slandered by its materials.
‘Is there no presumption of innocence in Poland?’ asks Beata Morawiec rhetorically in an interview with OKO.press. In turn, her defence attorneys submitted a report to the Disciplinary Chamber’s files on Monday that TVP had broadcast materials from the investigation and the question is whether it had the consent of the prosecutor’s office. The defence attorneys believe that the Chamber should now notify the prosecutor’s office of this.
Judge Morawiec can appeal against Adam Tomczyński’s judgment to a three-person bench of the Disciplinary Chamber.
Translated by Roman Wojtasz
The text was posted in Polish at OKO.press.