Polish judicial disciplinary panel law

The Polish judicial disciplinary panel law is legislation approved by the Sejm (223 to 205) on 20 December 2019, but not yet ratified into law.[1][2] The bill empowers the Disciplinary Chamber at the Supreme Court of Poland to punish judges who engage in "political activity", including questioning the political independence of the panel.[2][3] Punishment of judges may be a fine, reduction of salary, or termination from their position.[3] The bill also changes the manner in which the head of the Supreme Court of Poland is appointed. The Law and Justice party had previously attempted to oust the current head, Małgorzata Gersdorf, and her term expires in 2020.[4] Giving the government, in effect, the ability to control and sack judges the legislation violates EU judicial system legislation.[5]

The bill was born as a continuation of the legislation following the 2015 Polish Constitutional Court crisis, further exerting political control on the courts. Critics of the law have called it draconian, and demonstrations against it took place throughout Poland. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the bill "risks further undermining the already heavily challenged independence of the judiciary in Poland".[6] The EU urged Poland not to pass the bill, and to consult the Venice Commission, yet it passed.[7] The Association of Judges of Ireland condemned the Polish legislation.[8] Koen Lenaerts, President of the Court of Justice of the European Union, warned that "You can’t be a member of the European Union if you don’t have independent, impartial courts operating in accordance with fair trial rule, upholding union law".[9]

The Polish Supreme court stated that the bill was a "continuation of the lawlessness of the 1980s". According to the court: "Everything is there: a ban on the freedom of speech by judges, the establishment of a surveillance mechanism and a drastic reduction of their right to have profiles on social networks".[10] The Polish Supreme Court, prior to the bill passing, said that Poland overruling the primacy of EU law may force it out of the bloc.[11][12]

Donald Tusk, former European Council president, warned the bill might force Poland out of the EU. In parallel, the EU parliament condemned the anti-LGBT LGBT-free zones in Poland.[13] Ombudsman Adam Bodnar said the law "violates the Constitution and the ground rules of the rule of law" and "would definitively put Polish courts and judges under the control of the legislative and executive branches of government".[1] Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Diego García Sayán and President of the European Association of Judges José Igreja Matos warned the legislation "runs contrary to judicial independence".[14]

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Committee for the Defence of Democracy organized protests throughout Poland against the bill.[11][15]


  1. ^ a b "Poland approves bill aimed at punishing judges". France 24. Dec 20, 2019. Retrieved Jan 12, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Polish Parliament Backs Judicial Bill Opposed by EU". WSJ. 2019-12-20. Retrieved 2019-12-21.
  3. ^ a b "Poland lower house approves controversial judges law". BBC News. Retrieved 2019-12-21.
  4. ^ "Poland's government steps up fight with judiciary | Financial Times". ft.com. Retrieved 2019-12-21.
  5. ^ "Poland passes controversial bill to punish judges | News | DW | 20.12.2019". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 2019-12-21.
  6. ^ "Polish Lawmakers OK Disciplining Judges; EU Decries Move". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-12-21.
  7. ^ Jan Strupczewski. "Poland lower house adopts judiciary reform despite EU concerns". Reuters. Retrieved 2019-12-21.
  8. ^ Gallagher, Conor. "Irish judges to condemn Polish government's judicial policy". The Irish Times. Retrieved Jan 12, 2020.
  9. ^ "EU's top judge warns Poland over overhaul of judiciary". Jan 9, 2020. Retrieved Jan 12, 2020 – via www.reuters.com.
  10. ^ "Mass protests erupt across Poland over plan to punish judges". AP NEWS. Dec 18, 2019. Retrieved Jan 12, 2020.
  11. ^ a b "Poland could be forced to leave EU by its judicial reforms, top court says". Euronews. Retrieved 2019-12-21.
  12. ^ Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com). "Poland's judicial reforms put EU membership at risk, warns top court | DW | 17.12.2019". DW.COM. Retrieved Jan 12, 2020.
  13. ^ "Poland risks leaving EU with new judges law, Tusk warns". EU Observer. Retrieved 2019-12-21.
  14. ^ "Time is fast running out for judicial independence in PiS-ruled Poland ǀ View". euronews. Dec 17, 2019. Retrieved Jan 12, 2020.
  15. ^ "Thousands in Poland protest against latest judicial reforms". Dec 18, 2019. Retrieved Jan 12, 2020 – via www.reuters.com.