POSTS BY Marcin Matczak

10 Facts on Poland for the Consideration of the European Court of Justice

In June, the European Court of Justice is to decide whether, despite massive legislative changes, the Polish judiciary is still independent and therefore able to ensure a fair trial to people extradited to Poland on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant. Marcin Matczak, a Polish lawyer, uses the old tradition of the amicus curiae letter – a letter from a friend of the court – to depict the situation of the Polish judiciary in 2018.

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A Constitutional Referendum to Delegitimize the Constitution

President Andrzej Duda has just announced that on 10 and 11 November a referendum will be held in Poland on the need to amend the Constitution, in which he will put to the Polish people numerous questions arising from ongoing public consultations. This consultative referendum is an attempt to delegitimise the Constitution, on which the referendum’s own legitimacy is based.

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The Rule of Law in Poland: A Sorry Spectacle

With political appointments to its National Council of the Judiciary, Poland is now seeing the next step in the dismantling the rule of law. The change in the procedure for appointments to the Council was one of the reasons thousands of Poles took to the streets last summer to protest in the name of independent courts. Their fears have turned out to be well founded.

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Reviewing the Holocaust Bill: The Polish President and the Constitutional Tribunal

President Duda decided to sign off the controversial law allowing to punish those who publicly accuse the Polish nation and the Polish state of taking part in the Holocaust and in any war crimes. The law will now come into force – a circumstance which is unlikely to calm the international discussion it has generated. Having decided to sign the law, the President announced that he will file a motion to the Polish Constitutional Tribunal to check its constitutionality. If the president is aware that the law may be unconstitutional and has at his disposal legal tools to check it yet allows it to come into force, he can be accused of constitutional recklessness.

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President Duda is Destroying the Rule of Law instead of Fixing it

Were the president of any country to propose acts of law that remove almost half of the members of its supreme court, interrupt the constitutional term of office of the chairperson of such court, give himself the right to appoint a new chairperson of the court, and finally, interrupt the constitutionally defined term of office of a judicial council responsible for appointing judges, the consequences of such manifestly unconstitutional solutions would be massive public opposition and accusations of a coup d’état.  And yet in Poland, where this is exactly what is happening, the President’s proposals are met with understanding.  Why?  Because they are perceived as better than the even more unconstitutional proposals put forward earlier by the ruling party, Law and Justice. 

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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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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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