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E.U. Court Rules Poland Must Suspend Disciplinary Panel for Judges

EntertainmentE.U. Court Rules Poland Must Suspend Disciplinary Panel for Judges

WARSAW — The European Union’s highest court introduced measures on Wednesday to halt Poland’s widely criticized disciplinary regime for judges, the latest blow in a yearslong battle with the country’s governing Law and Justice party over what critics denounce as attempts to erode the independence of the judiciary.

In a temporary move that analysts said was highly likely to become permanent in the future, the Court of Justice of the European Union ordered the suspension of a new disciplinary chamber of the Polish Supreme Court, which has a politically selected membership and extraordinary powers to prosecute judges who oppose the government.

“Judging from the past rulings of the European tribunal, we can expect that today’s decision is a preview of a future conviction for the illegal persecution of the Polish judges by the government,” said Judge Krystian Markiewicz, president of Iustitia, the biggest association of judges in Poland. “This decision is just about the disciplinary measures, but it’s clear that the court questions the state of the rule of law in Poland in general.”

Still, Poland’s officials responded with contempt, suggesting they might not follow the court’s order. A deputy justice minister, Sebastian Kaleta, said in a statement posted on Twitter that the European court had “no power to evaluate or suspend constitutional organs of any member states.”

“This had been long expected, and now an avalanche is coming,” said Artur Nowak-Far, professor of European law at Warsaw School of Economics. “Soon the courts in other member states will be questioning Poland’s compromised judiciary, referencing the German example. Poland’s rulings will also no longer be trusted in the European Union, and that means serious trouble for Warsaw as well as international business that has any ties to Poland.”

“A lawyer cannot break the rules and cannot set an example of breaking those rules, especially at a time when so much depends on how thoroughly young justices, young lawyers abide by the rules,” he said in a long statement posted on Facebook. “I will not contribute to proceedings that are founded on this law that, in my opinion, violates Poland’s Constitution and the values considered to be the foundation of European law.”

All across Poland, judges protested the new law on what they called “Black Friday for European Judiciary.” Judges from a regional court in the northern city of Gdynia posed for photographs with their mouths covered with duct tape. Judges in other cities were photographed holding muzzles and banners saying “We will not be intimidated” and “The Disciplinary Chamber is not a court and its decisions are not rulings.”

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