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Prosecutor disciplined for columns she wrote

Beata Mik, a retired prosecutor of the General Prosecutor’s office is the long-standing author of many columns published in the press, including in Rzeczpospolita, a popular national daily newspaper. In March 2018 she was accused of not having notified her superiors of her further collaboration with the title, which had allegedly “weakened public trust in the independence of the prosecution service and prosecutors”. This allegation was made in response to her articles published from November 2016 to September 2017.

Objection to contract with Rzeczpospolita

Already in 2000, Ms Mik obtained consent of then-incumbent Prosecutor General for engaging in the work of a columnist. In November 2016, the prosecutor informed the National Prosecutor of her intention to conclude a contract for the assignment of copyrights to her columns with the publisher of Rzeczpospolita. When the National Prosecutor objected to execution of this contract, Beata Mik asked for justification for the decision. According to the response she was given, the decision was made in the exercise of a discretionary power of the Prosecutor General, and was based on the principles of equity, ethics and justice. The response also emphasised that “the previously issued decisions of no objection are not permanent”.

Disciplinary hearing

On 14 June, the Prosecutor General’s Disciplinary Tribunal held the last hearing in Ms Mik’s disciplinary case. As she argued, she had followed the National Prosecutor’s decision and had not signed any contract with the daily newspaper’s publisher but continued writing articles for Rzeczpospolita and legal journals.

In her closing argument, the Prosecution Service’s Deputy Disciplinary Officer Małgorzata Nowak petitioned the Tribunal to find the disciplined prosecutor guilty and punish her with an official reprimand. According to Ms Nowak, the column author was presented as “a retired prosecutor of the General Prosecutor’s Office”, which could evoke readers’ belief that the author’s ideas were “identical to the position and assessments, made in respect to the articles’ subject matter, by the prosecution service as a public institution and its leadership”. In consequence, this behaviour allegedly undermine public trust in the independence of the prosecution service and prosecutors.

Prosecutor Aleksander Herzog, acting as the disciplined prosecutor’s counsel in disciplinary proceedings, argued that the matter was not about the formalities but rather the content of Beata Mik’s articles published in Rzeczpospolita. Mr Herzog moved for Ms Mik’s acquittal and determination that the proceedings instituted by the Disciplinary Officer were manifestly ill-founded.

Prosecutor’s independence

“At first glance, the case is about the formal requirements. However, practically speaking, the ruling of the disciplinary tribunal will directly impact the condition of the public debate on the prosecution service”, HFHR legal expert Dr Barbara Grabowska-Moroz notes.

The disciplinary tribunal will make the ruling on 21 June 2018.

Disciplinary proceedings against prosecutors became publicly accessible in 2016.

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