CJEU rejects Polish courts' queries on disciplinary measures against judges

The CJEU found that the questions by Polish courts "are general in nature, so that the requests for a preliminary ruling must be declared inadmissible." /PAP/EPA

The EU Court of Justice (CJEU) has ruled that the requests by two Polish courts for a preliminary ruling concerning Polish measures from 2017 establishing a disciplinary procedure regime for judges are inadmissible, CJEU said in a Thursday press release.

The Thursday statement added, however, that the Polish judges should not be penalised for submitting such requests to the EU court.

"The fact that a national judge made a request for a preliminary ruling which turned out to be inadmissible cannot, however, lead to disciplinary proceedings being brought against that judge," the statement read.

In September 2019 the CJEU general spokesperson issued an initial opinion on the matter saying the queries were unacceptable as the cases to which they referred - litigation proceedings between a Polish city and tax authorities and a case involving organised crime - were insufficiently connected with EU law.

In its queries to the CJEU, the Polish courts said that judicial reforms in Poland have given the justice minister influence on the imposition and execution of disciplinary measures against judges, and the executive authorities influence on the line-up of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), the organ responsible for appointing judges to the Disciplinary Chamber of the Polish Supreme Court, before which disciplinary cases against judges are heard.

According to the query authors, this created the risk of the disciplinary courts being used to purge judges whose rulings the government disapproved of, and could have a disabling effect on the work of judges, who will be aware that their verdicts could bring them before a disciplinary tribunal. This, the query authors said, is a direct threat to the independence of judges and enables the justice system to be used for political ends.

On Thursday, CJEU said that under Article 267 TFEU (of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union - PAP), the preliminary ruling sought must be "necessary" to enable the referring court "to give judgment".

It also said there must be a connecting factor between the disputes before the national court and the provision of EU law for which an interpretation is sought. As in the present case there was no such factor because the referring courts do not have to apply EU law in order to rule on those disputes.

The CJEU therefore found that the questions by Polish courts "are general in nature, so that the requests for a preliminary ruling must be declared inadmissible."