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JUDICIAL CRISIS

The EU is one step closer to taking Poland to court

Reuters/Agencja Gazeta
Poland is not backing down on its courts overhaul.
By Edmund Heaphy
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

It’s not a good time to be a 65-year-old Polish Supreme Court justice.

Poland’s controversial overhaul of its judicial system (paywall) takes effect tomorrow (July 3) and—thanks to a lowering of the retirement age from 70 to 65—nearly 40% of the judges on the country’s highest court could be forced to step down.

That’s why the European Commission brought things much closer to a courtroom showdown today, sending a “Letter of Formal Notice” to the country’s government to protest implementation of the change. The commission says the independence of the Polish judiciary is being compromised.

Despite six months of prodding, Poland has refused to reverse the most contentious aspects of the law. In addition to expanding the size of the court by 60% and giving politicians control of the body that appoints judges, the law also introduces a disciplinary chamber for judges and provides for the appeal of decades-old rulings.

“We still hope that the Polish authorities will reconsider bringing it into force,” Margaritis Schinas, a spokesperson for the commission said.

If it refuses to, Poland will be facing off against the commission at the European Court of Justice. That court will not be kind to Poland. In February 2018, it ruled—in a case taken by Portuguese judges—that the independence of courts must be guaranteed and respected.

Even after today’s letter, Polish President Andrzej Duda is expected to make immediate use of the law to oust the Supreme Court’s president, Malgorzata Gersdorf, who turned 65 in November, Politico reported. She had two years left in her term.

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