This judge may blow up the new disciplinary regime. The ECJ may help

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For the second time in recent months, in June 2019 the Supreme Court referred preliminary questions to the European Court of Justice regarding disciplinary proceedings against judges. The most recent case involves judge Frąckowiak of the Poznań regional court.



Since the Law and Justice party came to power, Frąckowiak has been a recurring target of the spokespeople for, among other things, public statements and participation in events supporting the independence of the judiciary. Most of the proceedings, however, have been discontinued by local commissioners. That was until January 2019, when the deputy of the Disciplinary Commissioner of common courts, judge Przemysław Radzik, initiated disciplinary proceedings against judge Frąckowiak by bringing a total of 172 charges, most of which were for unjustified delays in issuing justifications for her verdicts. The acting President of the Supreme Court Disciplinary Chamber, Jan Majchrowski, has assigned Frackowiak’s case to the appellate court in Lublin. Instead of defending herself in court, she has filed a lawsuit to the Supreme Court’s Labour Law and Social Security Chamber, seeking a ruling that Majchrowski was not properly appointed as a judge to the top court, and therefore did not enjoy authority to designate the court in Lublin to consider her case.

 

The reasoning behind Frąckowiak’s claim is that Majchrowski’s appointment as a judge in the Supreme Court was made in violation of the required procedure, namely the announcement of vacancies lacked the countersignature of the prime minister, and was therefore invalid. Frąckowiak decided to file the lawsuit to the Labour Law and Social Security Chamber instead of the Disciplinary Chamber, which usually deals with similar cases, because the outcome of her motion may have an impact on all of the members of the new chamber when considering that the charges against Majchrowski’s appointment could be applied to all of them. The judges of the Labour Law and Social Security Chamber agreed to refer five preliminary questions to the European Court of Justice focusing mainly on whether Majchrowski is in fact a judge in the light of EU law, and whether the Disciplinary Chamber can even be considered a legitimate court. The exact questions read as follows:

 

  • Should the second subparagraph of Article 19(1), Article 2, Article 4(3) and Article 6(3) TEU in conjunction with Article 47 of the Charter and Article 267(3) TFEU be interpreted as meaning that the court of last instance in a Member State can declare, in proceedings for a declaration the non-existence of a work relationship, that a person – to whom an act of appointment to serve as a judge of that court, issued in breach of the principle of effective judicial protection or as a result of a procedure which is inconsistent with that principle, has been delivered – is not a judge, where the court was intentionally precluded from examining these issues before the delivery of that act?
  • Should the second subparagraph of Article 19(1), Article 2, Article 4(3) TEU and Article 47 of the Charter in conjunction with Article 267 TFEU be interpreted as meaning that the principle of effective judicial protection is breached where the act of appointment is delivered after a national court requests the Court for preliminary ruling concerning the interpretation of Union law, the response to which is necessary to examine whether national law, which was the basis of the delivery of the act of appointment, is consistent with Union law?
  • Should the second subparagraph of Article 19(1), Article 2, Article 4(3) and Article 6(3) TEU and Article 47 of the Charter in conjunction with Article 267TFEU be interpreted as meaning that the principle of effective judicial protection is breached by not guaranteeing the right to court where the act of appointment is delivered as a result of nominating proceedings carried out in flagrant violation of national law concerning the appointment of judges?
  • Should the second subparagraph of Article 19(1), Article 2, Article 4(3) TEU and Article 47 of the Charter in conjunction with Article 267 TFEU be interpreted as meaning that the principle of effective judicial protection is breached where a Member State establishes an organizational unit in the court of highest instance that is not a court within the meaning of Union law?
  • Should the second subparagraph of Article 19(1), Article 2, Article 4(3) TEU and Article 47 of the Charter in conjunction with the third subparagraph of Article 267 TFEU be interpreted as meaning that the organisational unit in the court of highest instance, which has jurisdiction in the case, to which a person to whom the act of appointment has been delivered, and which is composed entirely of persons to whom such acts, vitiated by a defects referred to in questions 2–4, have been delivered, and which is, because of that, not a court within the meaning of Union law, cannot rule on the existence of a work relationship and judicial status of the said person but such case can be considered by other organisational unit which meets the requirements for a court under Union law?

 

The Supreme Court requested the ECJ conduct expedited proceedings with regard to the above questions.

 

[By Martyna Olejnik]



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July 29, 2019

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