Polish President Andrzej Duda has appointed 27 judges to the Supreme Court of Justice on Wednesday despite objections from the Administrative court, which had ruled that appointments would have to be suspended unless a complaint was made by judicial candidates. The candidates had appealed the decision of the Supreme Judicial Council (KRS) not to nominate them. The judge’s council is close to the national-conservative government.
Krystian Markiewicz, chairman of the Judges’ Association, Justice, accused the head of state of overriding the separation of powers. A close Duda employee, Pawel Mucha, stated that the president was not part of the administrative court case. Therefore, he could exercise his constitutional right to appoint judges for the Supreme Court “in the public interest”. Duda did not wait for the decision on the EU Commission’s complaint against Poland to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The complaint, submitted by the Commission at the end of September, relates to a law that entered into force in July, reducing the retirement age for judges in the Supreme Court from 70 to 65. This will allow 27 of the 72 judges to be forced to retire.
Critics see the forced retirement of the judges as another attempt by the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party to undermine the independence the Polish courts.
The government enforced the changes despite the protests from Brussels and even announced in August an acceleration of the new appointments to the Supreme Court. In August The EU Commission set a deadline of one month for Poland to address its legal concerns and change the law. After Warsaw failed to comply, it was referred to to the ECJ.
Mucha described the lawsuit on Wednesday as “unfounded and faulty”. The complaint to the European Court of Justice is the next step in the infringement procedure against Poland. In addition, because of the controversial judicial reforms, Warsaw is facing a procedure under Article 7 of the EU Treaty, which could in theory lead to the withdrawal of Poland’s voting rights in the European Council. The vote must, however, be passed unanimously among the member states. The right-wing nationalist government of Hungary has already announced that it will not support punitive measures against Warsaw.