Poland to 'flatten' general court system in overhaul

At a press conference on Monday, Ziobro presented the guidelines for the latest justice system overhaul that, according to him, addresses the lengthy court procedures that Poles complain about. Rafał Guz/PAP

Poland will reduce its three-layer court system to two in order to free up more than 2,000 judges by removing a significant part of the bureaucratic workload, the justice minister has announced.

Zbigniew Ziobro, who is also leader of a small governing coalition party, has often been criticised by the opposition for failing to streamline the justice system for ordinary citizens.

Some of the criticism has also come from Law and Justice, the senior coalition partner.

At a press conference on Monday, Ziobro presented the guidelines for the latest justice system overhaul that, according to him, addresses the lengthy court procedures that Poles complain about.

Under the changes, the current district and regional court layers will be merged into one. The government will replace the district and regional courts with 79 court districts and create 20 regional courts in place of appellate courts.

"Through flattening the judicial structure we want to free up more than 2,000 judicial posts," Ziobro said.

He added that, after the changes, judges would focus on adjudicating instead of dealing with bureaucracy.

The justice minister went on to say that the reform also assumes equality among general court judges.

"Judges will have a single status, as we want to introduce the principle of equality of general court judges in Poland," he said.

Currently, general court judges have different status depending on whether they work in district, regional or appellate courts, with each layer being more prestigious than the lower one.

Ziobro also announced new digital solutions to access courts, including a mobile application for contacting the court, taking part in online hearings as well as sending and receiving court documents.

The minister's deputy, Katarzyna Frydrych, said the reform will leave just 1,100 judges performing other functions while 2,100 will return to "adjudicating full time."

This will reduce the length of court proceedings, according to Frydrych.

"Of course, there must be court presidents and deputy presidents which will carry out specific administrative activities, but the number of these functionary posts must be reduced," she added.