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HFHR on new Supreme Court Act

According to the Helsinki Foundation, the newly enacted law on the Supreme Court, if adopted, will effectively abolish the Supreme Court. Polish top court will then be replaced by a body with the same name but composed of mostly executive branch nominees. The law will disturb the operation and reduce effectiveness of the highest court in Poland who has now hundreds of cases on its docket.

The HFHR sent today its legal opinion on the amended Supreme Court Act. “We wrote that a substantial number of the measures proposed in the Act is unconstitutional, noting numerous procedural errors in the legislative process”, says Dr Barbara Grabowska-Moroz, Foundation’s legal expert.

The newly adopted law seeks to subordinate the Supreme Court to the executive. The Act is an attempt to circumvent constitutional guarantees of irremovability and independence of judges and courts. These provisions, as soon as they become effective, will create a systemic threat to individuals’ right to an independent and impartial court.

Other controversial measures introduced by the Act are changes to rules of disciplinary proceedings in the Supreme Court and common courts. “The new law is a systemic threat to judges’ independence. All judges will think twice before making a controversial ruling that may expose them to Justice Minister’s wrath”, warns Marcin Wolny, an attorney working with the HFHR.

In its opinion, the HFHR also notes that the legislator’s arbitrariness, coupled with the rapid pace of legislative works in Parliament’s lower house, undermines people trust in the state, which will bring catastrophic results, civically and financially. The latter conclusion is based on the Act sponsors’ own estimates, according to which the “reforms” will cost 19 million zlotys in the first year after the new law’s entry into force and 38 million zlotys in each subsequent year.

The Sejm adopted the amendment to the Supreme Court Act on 20 July. The law was immediately sent to the Senate. Senate adopted the law on 21 July. On 24 July, the President Andrzej Duda announced that he would veto the Act.

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