Polish Supreme Court Head Defies Ruling Party As Crisis Deepens

06 July, 2018, 19:43 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Polish President Andrzej Duda

Gersdorf thanked the crowd and said she was acting to protect Poland's rule of law.

Chief Justice Malgorzata Gersdorf has branded the move a "purge" and vowed to reject any retirement notice that would cut short her constitutionally guaranteed six-year term.

It changes the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 65, which would force 27 of 72 Supreme Court justices off the bench.

Morawiecki defended the changes the populist Law and Justice party has brought to the justice system, insisting his government is working to make judges more accountable to the democratic will of the people and that Poland's democracy "has never been as alive as it is today".

"Each EU state has the right to shape their legal system according to their own traditions", Prime Minister Morawiecki told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

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Their supporters say the law was aimed at certain judges and had little to do with age, an argument that was bolstered when the government named Justice Gersdorf's replacement: the 66-year-old judge Jozef Iwulski.

She was met by a wave of supporters, who chanted "constitution" - continuing the mass protests which began across many cities in Poland the previous evening.

Poland was once a beacon for countries struggling to escape the yoke of the Soviet Union and embrace western democracy.

Mucha, speaking to reporters after a meeting in the matter attended among others by Poland's President Andrzej Duda and Gersdorf herself, said that during the meeting Duda clearly confirmed that the new Supreme Court legislation was binding law, also with regard to judicial retirements.

Gersdorf still showed up for work Wednesday, insisting that according to the constitution, her six-year term runs through 2020.

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The Polish Constitutional Court also underwent controversial reforms in 2016 that critics alleged was unconstitutional and stacked it with PiS allies.

"We emphasize our attachment to the rules of a democratic state", Chief Justice Malgorzata Gersdorf said before entering the Warsaw courthouse.

In a debate dedicated to Europe's future, Morawiecki also got support from some who backed Warsaw's arguments that an overreaching European Union was meddling in a sovereign state's internal affairs.

The European commission said the changes would undermine "the irremovability of judges" and judicial independence in Poland, breaching the country's obligations under EU law. The EU remains unconvinced by Poland's recent efforts, with everyone waiting to see if and how a crucial judicial reform will go ahead on 3 July.

More protests are planned this week. The newspaper reported that Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland's ruling party, said Gersdorf is "doomed to fail miserably".

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Last week, an assembly of Supreme Court justices responded to the pending purge by issuing a series of resolutions highlighting Poland's constitutional guarantee of judicial independence.

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