You Can’t Forbid Judges to Think

The Polish judiciary is split apart. One part adheres to the ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU of 19th November 2019, another does not. This legal chaos and catastrophe was caused by the recent judicial reforms and it deprives citizens of the most important right – to be certain what their legal situation in court is.

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A Trial that Wasn’t, an Impact that Was

The handling of the Sadurski cases offers a pars pro toto picture of the dynamics, twists and (sub)plots in a slide to authoritarianism under our very eyes. It speaks for many other similar cases that do not benefit from equally intense coverage. It shows that what is at play in these politically motivated trials is a mixture of obfuscation, an attempt at a long-game strategy facilitated by unlimited resources (paid by the Polish taxpayer) and an expectation that international (scholarly and other) attention spans will break – and support will dwindle accordingly.

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Only a Court Established by Law Can Be an Independent Court

In A.K. and others, the European Court of Justice established a detailed method for assessing the independence (or lack thereof) of courts. The judicial independence test laid down by the ECJ, however, may not be entirely fit for the purpose of assessing the lawfulness of courts and judges which are established and appointed on the basis of flawed procedures by bodies arguably violating basic judicial independence requirements as established in EU law. The ECJ appears to limit the required verification under EU law to the issue of independence only. Instead, the reviewing body should, first, check whether the challenged court (judge) is “established by law” and only then, if necessary, follow up on the examination of its independence. Today the Polish Supreme Court has the opportunity to step up and give full effect to that criterion.

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Spain has a Problem with its Judiciary

According to the EU Justice Scoreboard of 2019 Spain is among the four EU countries with the worst perception about judicial independence among its citizens. The survey shows a trend that isn’t stopping: the perception about partiality of the judiciary is growing dangerously in the Spanish society. Causes are to be found in three elements: the political situation in the country; the shortcomings in the regulations on judiciary; the behavior of the judges themselves.

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