“We nominated them”. Did Minister Ziobro accidentally reveal who supported the judges to the NCJ?

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“We nominated such judges who we believed were ready to work on the reforms of the judiciary,” said Zbigniew Ziobro in the Senate.



Text by Michał Wilgocki. Translated by Roman Wojtasz. The text in Polish originally appeared at Gazeta Wyborcza.

 

Such an accidental statement led to the belief that the “apolitical” candidates for the National Council of the Judiciary are backed by representatives of the Ministry of Justice, which certain lawyers have been long suspecting.

 

Ziobro spoke his words from the senate’s rostrum during the debate on the “muzzle act”.

 

“If you win the elections, you will be able to choose those judges who you consider appropriate representatives of the judicial environment. This will almost certainly be Mr. Żurek, Mr. Tuleya, Mr. Łączewski – judges known for their restraint, their distance to the opposition, their impartiality,” mocked Ziobro.

 

“This is what the democratic mechanism involves, that, as part of the functioning of the mechanisms of democracy, every environment can report such judges for whom it takes responsibility.  We nominated such judges who we believed were ready to work on the reforms of the judiciary,” added Zbigniew Ziobro.

 

The words referred to the election of judges to the National Council of the Judiciary.

 

In March 2018, the Sejm chose 15 new judges – members of the National Council of the Judiciary with the votes of the Law and Justice and Kukiz’15 parties. The Act on the NCJ adopted earlier ended the term of office of its members to date and transferred the electoral power to parliament. Previously, it was the judges themselves who elected the judges.

 

To apply for a position, a judge needed to be nominated by either 25 other judges or 2,000 citizens. Despite the efforts of the judges and activists, the letters of support have not been revealed for two years.  Justice Paweł Juszczyszyn from Olsztyn is fighting for their disclosure.

 

According to lawyers and commentators, there is a suspicion that the Chancellery does not want to disclose the lists because they could reveal connections of the new judges of the NCJ with the Ministry of Justice. Ziobro saying “we nominated them” publicly for the first time suggests that these suspicions may be correct.

 

This is precisely how Ombudsman Adam Bodnar interprets the statement, having written in Twitter: “We nominated them” – in other words this was not a group of 25 judges who nominated each of the candidates to the NCJ, but it was the Ministry of Justice that had an influence on this process. This is how I understand the minister’s statement. Important words from the point of view of the public debate.”



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January 17, 2020

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