Controversial judicial reforms come into force on Tuesday in Poland

Controversial judicial reforms come into force on Tuesday in Poland

The Polish Supreme Court will begin a structural change today after the passing of a government-backed reform of the judiciary.

Rzeplinski, head of Poland’s Constitutional Court, and judges attend a session at the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw

Photo: Reuters/Kacper Pempel

The Polish Supreme Court will begin a structural change today after the passing of a government-backed reform of the judiciary. Under the law, which reduces the maximum age of judges to 65, 40% of the Supreme Court will be forced into retirement. The conservative PiS government, which holds a majority in both upper and lower houses of parliament, will be able to replace judges with party loyalists through parliamentary appointment.

Critics say the new law compromises the constitutional division of power between the country’s executive and judiciary. Given that senior courts are responsible for determining politically sensitive constitutional matters, such as the interpretation of election results and mechanisms, this has the potential to undermine Polish democracy.

In a formal hearing at the European Commission in Luxembourg last Tuesday, member state representatives ventured into an unprecedented discussion about Warsaw’s alleged “irreversible violation of the rule of law”. Yesterday, the EU launched an infringement proceeding against Poland for its plans to compromise judicial independence, which is a requirement under Article 19(1) of the Treaty of the European Union.

This ongoing dispute between Poland and the EU may risk punitive measures by the bloc that risks harming Poland’s fast-growing economy and if Warsaw does not respond to the EU lawsuit.

Wake up smarter with an assessment of the stories that will make headlines in the next 24 hours. Download The Daily Brief.