One Law, Two Justices

Poland’s rule of law crisis stems from the conviction that respect for institutions and the requirement to observe procedures are for the weak. The greatest risk arising from the crisis is that the recent disregard for both institutions and procedures will become a norm for future governments, whatever their political orientation.

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Defenceless Formalists: on Abuse of Law and the Weakness of the Polish Judiciary

Poland’s constitutional crisis is caused by the power of those who attack the rule of law, but also by the weakness of those who defend it. This weakness derives from courts taking a traditional formalist approach, excluding purposive and functional argumentation and leaving themselves prone to attack by the abuse of power through the other branches of government.

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A Stress Test for Europe’s Judiciaries

The rule of law, judicial independence and separation of powers are values guaranteed in constitutions of member states of the Council of Europe. Nevertheless, in recent years, a number of challenges to these accepted values have emerged in different countries all over Europe. Events in countries like Hungary, Ukraine, Slovakia and Turkey should be mentioned in this context. Poland’s reforms of its judiciary (some of them still in draft stage) are the latest and gravest example of this European crisis. While such threats to judicial independence in individual states are a fundamental problem for European co-operation based on shared values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, European states should not wait for remedies to be found on the European level. Rather, European states should learn from the challenges in Poland and other countries to critically review the constitutional and legal framework of their own national judiciaries. To facilitate this process, we suggest to stress test Europe’s judiciaries.

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Is Poland’s President Duda on the Road to Damascus?

Does President Duda’s recent vetoes signal a more permanent change in his fidelities to his political stable and to the Constitution? An opportunity to witness the depth of his conversion arises soon. The untimely death of Professor Morawski, one of the anti-judges appointed to the Constitutional Tribunal (CT) by Duda in December 2015, has created a vacancy in the CT which must be filled soon. The big question is with whom.

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Who’s next? On the Future of the Rule of Law in Poland, and why President Duda will not save it

With the latest draft laws about the judiciary, the Law and Justice party (PiS) has crossed yet another line. President Duda’s announcement of a veto appears on first sight to present an obstacle to PiS’ march towards completely unrestricted, unitary state power. In this post, I will examine first what effects the PiS drafts will have on the independence of the judiciary by the hands of PiS and then, whether or not President Duda’s so-called veto holds what it seems to promise.

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Farewell to the Separation of Powers – On the Judicial Purge and the Capture in the Heart of Europe

After the cautious and carefully prepared dismantling of the Polish Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court’s independence was now swept away in the twinkling of an eye. Late at night on Wednesday, July 12, 2017, a draft law virtually constituting an overnight demolition of the Supreme Court was proposed. This amendment heralds the death knell for the rule of law in Poland.

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For Central Europe’s Illiberal Democracies, the Worst is yet to Come

Next week the Polish parliament will most likely pass a bill sponsored by the ruling Law and Justice party, introducing a total overhaul of the country’s judicial system. The tenures of all judges sitting on the Supreme Court, Poland’s highest judicial instance, will be immediately expired, while their successors will be installed by the justice minister. In other words, the members of the last judicial body standing in the way of Law and Justice eradicating tripartite division of powers and court independence will now be appointed by a politically tainted minister.

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Die aktuellste Justizreform in Polen: ist dies das endgültige Ende der Rechtsstaatlichkeit?

Während der Streit um den Verfassungsgerichtshof aus polnischer Sicht als mittlerweile beendet gilt, versucht die Europäische Union eine passende Lösung zu finden, die in der Empfehlung der Kommission geäußerten Forderungen durchzusetzen. Die regierende Partei „Recht und Gerechtigkeit“ beschließt jedoch in der Zwischenzeit weitere Justizreformen, die genauso, wie das umstrittene Verfassungsgerichtshofgesetz, gegen die Grundsätze der Europäischen Union aus Art. 2 EUV, vor allem gegen die Rechtsstaatlichkeit und Demokratie, verstoßen können.

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Statement by the former presidents of the Constitutional Tribunal: Andrzej Rzepliński, Marek Safjan, Jerzy Stępień, Bohdan Zdziennicki and Andrzej Zoll

Last November, the former presidents of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal issued a joint statement to protest against the subjugation of the Tribunal. Now, as the PiS government is about to effectively bring the entire judiciary under their control, they speak up again.

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Sententia non existens – the future of jurisprudence of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal?

One of the latest topics in the debate on the future of constitutional control in Poland concerns the possibility and the need of common court judges to directly apply the Constitution. This possibility has already existed in theory – according to the Article 8 para 2 of the Constitution of Poland, the provisions of the Constitution shall apply directly, unless the Constitution provides otherwise. However, in practice, until now in case when the conformity of the normative act with the Constitution was questioned in particular case, the court has always referred the question of law the Constitutional Tribunal. The need to come back to the discussion on direct applicability of the Constitution stems from the questionable legality of some Constitutional Tribunal rulings in connection with the incorrect appointment of three so-called “quasi-judges” in December 2015.

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