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. 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. Punishment of judges may be a fine, reduction of salary, or termination from their position. 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. Giving the government, in effect, the ability to control and sack judges the legislation violates EU judicial system legislation.
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". The EU urged Poland not to pass the bill, and to consult the Venice Commission, yet it passed. The Association of Judges of Ireland condemned the Polish legislation. 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".
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". 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.
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. 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". 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".
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