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July 11, 2018

Justice Purged: Poland Politicizes its Judiciary

Introduction

Poland is soon approaching a point of no return concerning the independence of its judiciary. On July 3, more than 40 percent of the country’s 73 Supreme Court judges as of July 3 are likely to be forced from office under the newly-enacted Law on the Supreme Court, passed by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. 

Judges on the Court have heretofore been insulated from the current Polish government’s mounting attacks on the rule of law. Under the new law, however, these judges will likely be replaced by Law and Justice loyalists appointed on the basis of fidelity to party rather than on juridical merit. In addition to the forced retirement of Supreme Court judges, the new law will create a body with powers to rehear nearly any court case decided since 1997 – meaning that civil and criminal cases can be reopened and critics of Law and Justice can be targeted for political purposes. Finally, the law will incentivize the disciplining of judges by creating a new body of highly-paid political appointees tasked with meting out judicial discipline. Having already routed Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal and regional courts, the pending purge may complete Poland’s transformation from a model of post-Communist governance to a country once again devoid of meaningful rule of law...