Supreme Court head wants gov't to backtrack on disciplinary regime

The head of Poland's Supreme Court has requested the president, prime minister and parliament speakers to amend the country's new disciplinary system for judges in order to end the current conflict with the EU.

Malgorzata Manowska, the first president of the Supreme Court, has asked President Andrzej Duda to consider putting forward a relevant bill that would allow for "efficient and doubt-free" operation of the disciplinary regime in Poland.

On July 15, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, which can run disciplinary proceedings against judges, should be suspended owing to a lack of independence from the executive power. Poland has been given until August 16 to implement the rulings or face financial sanctions.

In her letters to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the speakers of the lower and upper houses of parliament, Manowska made an appeal to prepare legislation with identical effect.

Manowska warned that Poland was facing huge financial fines for not complying with the CJEU verdict. She also said the CJEU rulings have "de facto paralysed the system of judicial disciplinary responsibility, a situation which has lasted for a year and has drastically deteriorated in recent weeks."

On Friday afternoon, President Andrzej Duda told PAP that the disciplinary regime will need changes.

Asked about Manowska's letter, Duda told PAP: "I fully agree with the (Supreme Court) president here."

"First of all, I believe there should be an effective system of disciplinary responsibility for judges so that society can see that it's not the case that there is no responsibility," Duda said adding, however, that the system should be "transparent, reliable and fair."

Commenting on Manowska's 'system paralysis' warning, the president said that "everything indicates that we will need legislative changes."

In October 2019, the European Commission (EC) decided to take Poland to the CJEU. The EC argued that the disciplinary panel at Supreme Court, set up in 2017 by the ruling coalition to take disciplinary measures against judges who break the law or code of conduct, violated judicial independence in that it could have a "chilling effect" on judges, and thus ran against EU law.

The Disciplinary Chamber can strip judges of immunity, suspend their work and impose penalties on them, but critics say ruling party politicians have had an overwhelming influence on who should sit on the panel.