EU Court of Justice to rule on Polish law forcing retirement of judges

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will almost certainly rule today that a 2017 Polish law lowering the retirement age

poland judge retirement

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The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will almost certainly rule today that a 2017 Polish law lowering the retirement age for judges breaches EU law.

The law would force some 40% of the country’s judges to immediately retire. Their replacements would be selected by the National Council of the Judiciary—a body largely dominated by the Law and Justice Party (PiS) led government.

The decision will allow the EU to lay down a marker that it will protect the rule of law against attempts by populist regimes, most notably Poland and Hungary, to curb judicial independence.

As today’s ruling doesn’t totally curtail Poland’s attempts at judicial reform—it effectively delays how soon the PiS can appoint judges—compliance should be expected. However, Poland’s resolve could be tested longer-term if the ECJ rules in a separate case that its disciplinary regime for judges also breaches rule of law standards.

If Poland refuses to comply with ECJ rulings, Brussels could look to impose sanctions, including the suspension of voting rights. However, doing so would be a messy process that could drive a lasting wedge between the bloc’s east and west.

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