The Rule of Law Crisis in Poland: A New Chapter

The current controversies on the Polish Supreme Court resemble the conflict over the Constitutional Tribunal in 2015-216 to some extent. However, the Supreme Court took new steps on August 2, when it referred five questions to the Court of Justice of the EU and requested a preliminary ruling. All five questions relate (more or less directly) to the principles of (1) independence of the courts and (2) the judicial independence under the circumstances of the rule of law crisis in Poland and thus have a potential of becoming a key aspect in the Polish rule of law crisis.

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Open Letter

We, the undersigned, have learnt that Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Poland Professor Małgorzata Gersdorf has had her constitutionally guaranteed term of office of six years prematurely terminated by a new statute on the Supreme Court rushed through the Polish Parliament and signed by President Andrzej Duda on 26 July 2018. We also […]

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The Disheartening Speech by the President of Bulgaria’s Supreme Court Which Nobody in Brussels Noticed

While many foreign commentators focus on the endangered democratic values in Poland and Hungary, the situation in Bulgaria is equally deplorable. If the President of the Supreme Court contends that there is no separation of powers and that his family is facing abuse because he turns down orders by the executive, then surely ordinary citizens, especially critics of the government, have no means to protect themselves from the rage of those who have captured the Bulgarian State.

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Polish Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Under Pressure: What Now?

These days mark the capture of the second-last central institution not yet fully under the control of the Polish Law and Justice party, namely, the Supreme Court (the last remaining one being the Ombudsman office). Having captured the Constitutional Tribunal, the National Council of Judiciary, electoral commissions, media regulation boards, prosecutorial offices and presidents of all local, regional and appellate courts, the illiberal revolution is eager to devour the highest court of the land.

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The AG Opinion in the Celmer Case: Why the Test for the Appearance of Independence is Needed

In this post, I focus on what I believe is the most important question in the Celmer case: what kind of a test for the rule of law/fair trial, and with how many prongs? I argue that the rule of law/fair trial test that the Court should apply is the test for the appearance of independence, known from the practice of the ECtHR. I also argue that the Court should not leave the application of this test to the referring court but carry it out by itself.

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The AG Opinion in the Celmer Case: Why Lack of Judicial Independence Should Have Been Framed as a Rule of Law Issue

On 28 June 2018, Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev delivered his Opinion in the Case C‑216/18 PPU Minister for Justice and Equality v LM on the surrender of a crime suspect to Poland. The issue is whether Mr. Artur Celmer, referred to by the Opinion as LM, should be surrendered from Ireland to Poland when there are serious doubts as to whether he would receive a fair trial, due to the alleged lack of independence of the judiciary resulting from recent changes to the Polish judicial system.

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Open Letter to Vice-President Frans Timmermans

If the law on the Polish Supreme Court enters into force in the beginning of July, as is currently planned, a large number of sitting judges of that Court will see their tenure unconstitutionally extinguished. In combination with an increase in the number of seats on the Supreme Court, this means that the newly politicized National Council of the Judiciary, elected by the governing party, will be in a position to appoint a majority of the judges on the Supreme Court. 23 legal and constitutional scholars have signed an open letter to urge the Vice President of the EU Commission to initiate an infringement procedure against Poland.

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Judges under Attack in Hungary

Judges seem to irritate the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who likes to talk officially about “the judicial state” and irresponsible judges. Despite many problems with judicial autonomy and practice, judicial independence itself has remained relatively intact from overt political influence so far. More precisely: the governing party and its friends could not completely rely on the courts to get favorable decisions. For example, governmental bodies have regularly lost cases initiated by civil legal organizations for the release of public information. That, however, might change after Orbán’s latest electoral victory.

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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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The Draft Amendments to the Serbian Constitution: Populism before Judicial Independence

Serbia is currently abuzz with draft constitutional amendments that should enhance judicial independence and move the country one step closer to EU accession. On 12 April 2018, the Serbian Government adopted the draft amendments and sent them to the Venice Commission. However, while at present the political influence on the judiciary comes from the political institutions, in the future this influence will come from the ruling majority.

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