Why the Polish Supreme Court’s Reference on Judicial Independence to the CJEU is Admissible after all

On August 2nd 2018, the Polish Supreme Court has referred questions to the European Court of Justice about whether or not the forced retirement of most of its senior judges and other infringements of judicial independence are compatible with EU law. That decision is a landmark step in the serious constitutional crisis in Poland that has been going on for several years. One issue is of fundamental importance: Is the SC’s preliminary reference  to the CJEU admissible?

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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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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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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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CJEU Opens the Door for the Commission to Reconsider Charges against Poland

In the Associação Sindical dos Juízes Portugueses judgment the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) deemed that on the basis of Article 19(1) TEU it is competent to evaluate the guarantee of independence of judges if only they sit in a national court that may apply and interpret EU law. In light of this ruling, the European Commission in the infringement proceedings against Poland does not have to restrict itself to the slightly modified “Hungarian scenario” (hitherto preferred by it). It may instead once again analyse the scope of charges with regard to the Common Courts System Act (the CCS Act), and may even lodge a new complaint concerning i.a. the Act on the Supreme Court.

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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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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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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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