Polish justice reform of December 2019 violates EU law says CJEU
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that changes to the Polish justice system made in December 2019 infringe EU law.
In a statement the court said that the "value of the rule of law is an integral part of the very identity of the European Union as a common legal order."
The ruling could well prolong a bruising conflict between Warsaw and Brussels, which had led to Poland being fined EUR 1 million a day, which was later reduced to EUR 500,000.
With the ruling, the CJEU agreed with a complaint lodged by the European Commission (EC) against Poland in April 2021.
The EC had stated in its complaint that an amendment to the law on ordinary courts, to the law on the Supreme Court and to some other laws of 2019 violated EU law.
Brussels had asked the CJEU to declare that the regime put in place by that law infringes various provisions of EU law.
The EC maintained that, in so far as the amending law conferred on the Polish Supreme Court's Disciplinary Chamber, whose independence and impartiality were not guaranteed, jurisdiction to rule on cases having a direct impact on the status of judges and the performance of their duties, that law affected their independence.
Furthermore, according to the EC, the amending law prohibited any national court from reviewing compliance with the EU requirements relating to an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law and established such a review as a disciplinary offence.
The EC also maintained that, by requiring judges to communicate information relating to their activities in associations or foundations and previous political memberships, and by planning to publish that information, the amending law infringed the right to respect for private life and the right to protection of personal data.
On January 13, the Sejm, the lower house of Polish parliament, passed an amendment to the law on the Supreme Court, which MPs of the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, the authors of the legislation, hoped would satisfy the rule-of-law milestone set by the EC.
The amendment proposed that all disciplinary issues concerning judges be settled by the top administrative court instead of the Supreme Court's Chamber of Professional Responsibility, a body created to replace a disciplinary chamber considered by the EC to be politicised.
After passing through parliament the bill went to the president for signing, but Andrzej Duda decided to get the Constitutional Tribunal (TK) to assess its compliance with the constitution, in what he described as a "preventative measure."