Ziobro’s faithful soldier becomes president of the largest court in Poland
The chief disciplinary commissioner, Piotr Schab, has been nominated to the office of president of the Regional Court in Warsaw. Schab is known for prosecuting independent judges. If this information is officially confirmed, it will mean a stricter course for Poland’s largest court.
Piotr Schab was nominated by the ministry of justice to the office of president of the Regional Court on Monday on 16 November in the afternoon. The nomination comes as a surprise as, until now, Schab, as the main disciplinary commissioner, was mainly interested in handling disciplinary action against defiant judges. He was doing this with two deputies, Przemysław Radzik and Michał Lasota. And since they prosecute judges for anything at all, they have become symbols of the ‘good change’ in the courts.
Warsaw’s legal community has been speculating about Piotr Schab’s nomination for several days.
According to our information, Schab had apparently specified financial conditions in exchange for his consent to take up this position. We wanted to ask Schab about the nomination, but his mobile phone had been switched off. We also failed to establish whether he would combine the function of president of Poland’s largest and most important court with the function of the chief disciplinary commissioner for judges. We wanted to ask the ministry of justice press officer, Agnieszka Borowska, about this, but she did not answer her phone.
President Bitner has left three times
Schab’s nomination to the office of president of the Regional Court in Warsaw came after Joanna Bitner, the previous president, resigned. She tendered her resignation on 5 November.
Bitner had no choice. She had to resign because of tensions between her and Deputy Minister of Justice Anna Dalkowska, who is responsible for the courts. According to our information, Bitner was accused of poorly organising the court’s work during the epidemic – the statistics on the court’s work are not wonderful. Additionally, Bitner was considered to be a person associated with Łukasz Piebiak, who was the HR manager in the courts. Piebiak left the Ministry of Justice in 2019 after the outbreak of the hate scandal.
Bitner has been managing the court since 2017, taking up the post from the previous president whose term of office had expired. She received her nomination from Ziobro’s ministry. However, she was still a member of the Iustitia association, which is the main critic of Minister Ziobro’s ‘reforms’.
The vice-president of the court, who had once brought about ‘disciplinary action’ for Ziobro’s current deputy, was dismissed.
There were no tensions with judges at the Regional Court in Warsaw during her reign, especially those involved in defending the judiciary against changes introduced by the Law and Justice party (PiS). There were such tensions in Kraków and Olsztyn. She was also not obstructing the work of the judicial association.
Nor will her term of office be associated with the term of office of a typical ‘president of the good change’. One of her well-known incidents was that, when Jarosław Kaczyński was giving testimony in one case, she ordered two of the court’s corridors to be closed to others.
It is also no secret that Bitner was in conflict with the vice-president of the court, Dariusz Drajewicz, a member of the new National Council of Judiciary (NCJ), who was nominated to that position during the same period. The media wrote that Drajewicz is not over-exerting himself in court. Bitner had already resigned twice before for this reason, but her resignation was not accepted by the ministry of justice then.
According to our information, after Bitner’s resignation, Małgorzata Szymkiewicz-Trelka, Vice-President of the Regional Court in Warsaw, to whom the civil division’s report, also tendered her resignation. We have not managed to establish whether her resignation has been accepted.
How Schab will rule
The capital’s judges now speculating on what Piotr Schab’s nomination to the office of president means to their court. Will it make the course stricter with respect to judges, especially those involved in the defence of free courts?
That would mean a conflict, because Warsaw’s judges have already shown more than once that they are not afraid of repression.
The Regional Court has a large group of judges committed to the defence of independence, such as Piotr Gąciarek and Igor Tuleya. The judges are also showing their commitment to independence in their rulings. They are being prosecuted for this by Ziobro’s disciplinary commissioners, namely Schab (the chief commissioner) and his two deputies, Radzik and Lasota.
The disciplinary commissioners were promoted for this. The new NCJ gave Piotr Schab a nomination to the office of judge of the Court of Appeal in Warsaw. The NCJ promoted Przemysław Radzik to the same court, whereas the NCJ gave his wife, Gabriela Zalewska-Radzik, a nomination to the Supreme Administrative Court. In turn, Michał Lasota was promoted to the office of a judge of the Regional Court in Elbląg.
Just after the publication of our text in Polish at OKO.press, the pro-government portal, wPolityce, which has sources that are close to the justice ministry, posted a report about Schab’s nomination to the office of president of the court. The portal hopes that Schab will be uncompromising as its president. It also arises from our information that, after our text was posted, the vice-presidents of the Regional Court in Warsaw started to inform the judges about Schab’s nomination.