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EU court rules Poland must suspend disciplinary panel for judges

The Supreme Court in Warsaw in early 2020
The Supreme Court in Warsaw in early 2020Anna Liminowicz/The New York Times

WARSAW — The European Union’s highest court introduced measures on Wednesday to halt Poland’s widely criticized disciplinary regime for judges, the latest blow in a yearslong battle with the country’s governing Law and Justice party over what critics call attempts to erode the independence of the judiciary.

In a temporary move that analysts said was highly likely to become permanent in the future, the Court of Justice of the European Union ordered the suspension of a new disciplinary chamber of the Polish Supreme Court, which has a politically selected membership and extraordinary powers to prosecute judges.

“Judging from the past rulings of the European tribunal, we can expect that today’s decision is a preview of a future conviction for the illegal persecution of the Polish judges by the government,” said Judge Krystian Markiewicz, president of Iustitia, the biggest association of judges in Poland.

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Still, Poland’s officials responded with contempt, suggesting they might not follow the court’s order.

Despite earlier adverse rulings in the European court and threats of sanctions from European lawmakers and officials, the populist governing party has continued efforts to put its mark on most of the key institutions of Poland’s judiciary in the past four years. Officials have described the changes as designed to purge corruption and vestiges of communism.

Experts say that if Poland does not change course, this verdict will mark the beginning of Warsaw’s exclusion from the European legal community.

New York Times