TVP’s news, ‘Wiadomości’, strikes at Judge Beata Morawiec with a leak from the prosecutor’s files
TVP’s news, ‘Wiadomości’, struck at Judge Beata Morawiec, known for her defence of the free courts, with material that sounded like a sentence that has already been passed against her. The material, which was based on a leak from the files from the prosecutor’s office, was broadcast two days before the Disciplinary Chamber’s meeting, which will decide on whether to cancel the judge’s immunity.
The several-minute-long material devoted to Judge Morawiec, which was broadcast on Saturday, 10 October, bore the title of ‘“Wiadomości” reveals evidence of pathology’. The host announced it as follows: ‘Journalists from “Wiadomości” obtained shocking testimonies of witnesses suggesting that Morawiec took advantage of her position and influence in the Polish courts to conduct criminal activities.’
The ‘Wiadomości’ viewers learned from Adrian Borecki’s and Adam Krawczak’s material that Judge Beata Morawiec, president of the Themis association of judges, makes out that she is a critic of Minister Ziobro’s ‘reforms’, while she herself has problems with the law.
The National Public Prosecutor’s Office wants to press charges against her, which is why it applied to the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court to cancel the judge’s immunity. (The Chamber will consider the motion on Monday, 12 October).
While discussing two allegations of the prosecutor’s office, namely the judge’s alleged acceptance of a bribe in the form of a telephone for a favourable verdict and the alleged preparation of a fictitious opinion, the authors of the material illustrated these with quotations from explanations and testimonies submitted to the prosecutor’s office by people accusing Judge Morawiec.
Marek B., who was selling telephones, told the prosecutors, as a suspect, that the judge had promised him a fair verdict in his family’s case, which she issued in 2012. He was supposed to have left her a telephone in the secretarial office for that.
Another person confirmed that Marek B. had been walking about the court boasting that the judge had issued a ‘fair’ verdict. Meanwhile, it supposedly arises from a third person’s testimony that the judge did not prepare an opinion for PLN 5,000, which the Court of Appeal in Krakow ordered in 2013.
One more train of thought appeared in the material presented by ‘Wiadomości’ that Judge Morawiec was supposed to have taken advantage of her position in court to enable her brother’s company, which was selling hygiene and cleaning products, to win contracts.
Deputy Minister of Justice Sebastian Kaleta stated in the material that the judge’s ‘torpedoing of the reform of the judiciary’ may not necessarily be selfless, because judges can defend their own interests. Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of ‘Gazeta Polska’ compared Judge Morawiec’s case to ‘a typical arrangement in Chicago in the 1930s, when the mafia was defending its judges and the judges were defending their mafia.’
The prosecutor’s office wants to press criminal charges against the judge who stood up to Ziobro. What are these allegations worth?
What ‘Wiadomości did not present
It was no coincidence that the material appeared in ‘Wiadomości’ just two days before the decision of the Disciplinary Chamber at the Supreme Court, which will decide on Monday, 12 October as to whether to cancel Judge Morawiec’s immunity.
It is also interesting that Wiadomości’ had access to the testimony against the judge. However, her defence attorneys were only able to see a part of the files that the National Prosecutor’s Office submitted to the Chamber on Friday, 9 October. Such a decision was made by Judge Adam Tomczyński, who will examine the motion to cancel the immunity on his own. Tomczyński also prohibited the defence attorneys from making copies of documents in the files.
However, what is important is what was not included in the material presented by ‘Wiadomości’ and what makes us approach the accusations of the prosecutor’s office with a great deal of reserve and doubt. Because they appear to be exaggerated and deliberately targeted at Judge Morawiec, who has been defending the free courts in recent years and has been criticizing the ‘reforms’ of the Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Ziobro.
There are several reasons for doubting the intentions of the National Prosecutor’s Office, which is headed by Bogdan Święczkowski, a confidant of Zbigniew Ziobro.
First, the context of the testimony. We are not familiar with the circumstances under which the people incriminating the judge were questioned by the prosecutor’s office. It is known that, in the case of the telephone, the judge is being accused by Marek B. (he submitted his explanations as a suspect) and indirectly by the former director of the Court of Appeal in Krakow (he submitted his explanations as a suspect) and that court’s former accountant (she gave testimony as a witness).
The accountant and former director are involved in a broader investigation of financial irregularities at the Court of Appeal in Krakow. Judge Morawiec’s case is a tiny fragment of that. So why did they incriminate the judge? Have they been offered something for incriminating evidence? As Onet wrote in 2019, the former accountant confessed that she had a proposition from the prosecutors to testify against known judges from Krakow. However, in return, she was supposed to receive the status of a so-called small crown witness. And it so happens that the known judges from Krakow are Beata Morawiec and Judge Waldemar Żurek, who are among the leaders of the defence of free courts.
Second, ‘Wiadomości’ only presented a small part of the testimony. Meanwhile, experienced lawyers – specialists in criminal law – know that testimony (given by witnesses) or explanations (given by suspects) need to be read in whole and ideally together with all the files from the investigation. Because it is then known what procedural position the people questioned by the prosecutor’s office have and with what they are threatened. The stage of the investigation at which they were questioned is known. The details of the testimony and the questions posed by the prosecutors are also important. All this affects the credibility of the testimony. This is very important in this case because of point 3 and because the former director and former accountant, who are incriminating the judge, were indicted by the prosecutor’s office in April 2020 in connection with the main investigation into the irregularities at the court of appeal.
Third, Beata Morawiec has been denying the allegations from the beginning. The judge ordered a private expert opinion in confirmation of the fact that she had prepared the opinion at the request of the court of appeal. It transpires from this that she had prepared the file with the opinion for the court in 2013. Her defence attorneys will submit this opinion to the Disciplinary Chamber on Monday. And perhaps its disclosure a few days ago resulted in the reaction from ‘Wiadomości’ with the leak from the files from the prosecutor’s office.
The judge also denies that she had ever taken any telephone. She cannot remember Marek B. Of course, she presided over the bench that heard the appeal in his case. And this bench issued a judgment that was favourable for him, but someone else was the rapporteur of the case, who has the greatest influence on the verdict.
Morawiec emphasizes that she always tries to pass a fair judgment in every case. Furthermore, the allegation of accepting a bribe seems absurd and not very credible, because it means that the judge would have to have taken the telephone. Which nobody wants to believe.
Judge Morawiec also claims that her brother’s company had not been doing any business with the court. It only delivered toilet paper to the court once, in an emergency, for around PLN 500, because it had run out, while the procedures related to the selection of a new company in a tender were still in progress. The prosecutor’s office is not charging her with criminal allegations for this, but ‘Wiadomości’ announced that the judge wanted her brother to do business with the court through nepotism.
Fourth, Beata Morawiec won a case against Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro. ‘Wiadomości’ did not mention a word about that. In January 2019, the Regional Court in Warsaw ordered Ziobro to apologize to Beata Morawiec in a non-final verdict for communication from his ministry that had slandered her. The ministry issued the communication in 2017 after dismissing Beata Morawiec from the position of president of the Regional Court in Krakow. Her dismissal was presented in comparison with the detention of the directors of the Krakow courts (the directors report to the ministry) in connection with an investigation into the irregularities at the Court of Appeal in Krakow.
In the communication, Morawiec was also accused of the fact that the courts subordinated to her were working badly. The court in Warsaw held that the communication had deliberately struck at the judge and ordered an apology to her. The minister’s appeal is currently pending.
The community of Polish judges believes this judgment is not without significance to Judge Morawiec’s current situation. It could have humiliated Zbigniew Ziobro, who is simultaneously the Prosecutor General.
The former director and accountant of the Court of Appeal in Krakow testified against the judge after she filed her action against the Minister of Justice. Interestingly, Marek B., who spoke about the telephone as a bribe, was questioned after the court had issued its verdict in which it ordered the minister to apologize.
‘Today Beata, tomorrow you’
The motion of the National Public Prosecutor’s Office to cancel Judge Morawiec’s immunity will be examined by Adam Tomczyński from the Disciplinary Chamber. He is a former bankruptcy judge and a former lawyer. Before his appointment to the Chamber, he had been praising the current authorities on Twitter. He was a member of the Chamber which suspended Paweł Juszczyszyn from his judicial duties. Beata Morawiec will not be at the hearing at the Chamber on Monday, because she does not consider the Chamber to be a legal court. Her defence attorneys will be there.
Morawiec can count on the support of the judges who support her. They do not believe the prosecutor’s office. They believe it deliberately wants to discredit Morawiec in order to strike at the whole of the judicial community.
Importantly, in this case, the prosecutor’s office went so far as to conduct a dawn raid at the judge’s home, breaching the immunity that protects her. The laptop she uses at work was confiscated under the threat of conducting a search of her home. Lawyers, including the former president of the Constitutional Tribunal and the former Commissioner for Human Rights, Prof. Andrzej Zoll, said the actions of the prosecutor’s office were illegal.
Therefore a rally will be held on Monday in front of the Supreme Court in support of Judge Morawiec. Similar rallies will be held in courts throughout Poland, including in Krakow. ‘Let’s show our support in the social media – remember – today Beata, tomorrow you. Anyone can be slandered, any honest person, who is inconvenient to the authorities, can be accused. Let’s not allow the judges to be intimidated. Let us stand together – solidarity is our strength,’ the Themis Association of Judges encourages participation in the rallies.
Judge Morawiec will be working at her court in Krakow on Monday. She will also consider action against TVP for Saturday’s material about her. ‘This was typical material supporting the argument of throwing mud at a person and destroying him. The materials from the investigation have been published, while the judge cannot say anything about it to defend herself, because of the secrecy of the investigation,’ Judge Dariusz Mazur, press officer of the Themis association says.
Translated by Roman Wojtasz
The text was posted in Polish at OKO.press.