Polish presidency says top Supreme Court justice to retire

Howard TerryJul 08, 2018

They showed support for the rule of law and for the court's president, who is being forced to retire under a new judicial overhaul.

Hundreds of people sang the national anthem and chanted "Judges are not removable!" and "Constitution!" as the court's First President Malgorzata Gersdorf showed up for work, saying that according to the constitution, her six-year term runs through 2020.

"I'm not engaging in politics; I'm doing this to defend the rule of law and to testify to the truth about the line between the constitution and the violation of the constitution", Gersdorf told reporters and supporters.

The new law retired more than a third of the Supreme Court's 82 judges, a move widely seen as an attempt by the ruling Law and Justice party to take control over the judiciary.

Responding to criticism over the reforms, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the European Parliament on Wednesday that EU states have the "right" to create their own legal systems. "We can speak of a crisis of the rule of law in Poland, of a lack of respect for the constitution".

On Monday, the European Commission announced it was formally notifying the Polish government of the launching of a so-called infringement procedure over the mass dismissals.

Gersdorf said Tuesday that she will "go on vacation" after showing up at work on Wednesday. They accused Law and Justice, whose acronym in Polish is PIS, of dictatorial tendencies.

The lowering of the mandatory retirement age is affecting 27 of the court's 73 judges.

Besides the dismissal of the 27 judges, the National Judiciary Council - which following reforms past year is controlled by the ruling party - can also now nominate more than 50 new judges, Buras said.

We can not simply say: "this is a purely national issue", Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President of the European 'Commission and Commissioner for the Eurozone and Social Dialogue said.

On the eve of the changes, Supreme Court spokesman, judge Michal Laskowski, said it was not yet clear if the president would use his power to immediately force the retirement of the judges, including the court president Malgorzata Gersdorf.

On Tuesday, the dispute triggered protests in front of the court in the capital, Warsaw, which Gersdorf also attended.

Earlier the government already took control of ordinary courts and the constitutional court.

Protests against PiS' judicial reforms under the slogan "In Defence of the Supreme Court" are expected in cities across Poland on Tuesday evening, according to organizers Komitet Obrony Demokracji (KOD).

Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Gersdorf is "doomed to fail miserably".

"Poland is a European country and it is imperative that its judges are completely independent - this is fundamental to guaranteeing citizens' rights", Draginja Nadazdin, director of Amnesty International's Poland bureau told AFP.

European Union ministers held the first-ever Article 7 hearing in Luxembourg on Tuesday (June 26) to determine the state of play in the rule of law dispute between Brussels and Poland.

Brussels in Dec triggered Article Seven proceedings against Poland over "systemic threats" to the rule of law, which could eventually see Warsaw's European Union voting rights suspended.

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