Interim injunctions by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against the country’s controversial judicial reforms are unconstitutional, the Polish Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday.
The country’s president, Andrzej Duda, signed a controversial law in February 2020 that banned judges from questioning the president’s court dates and banning them from political activities. It also prevents judges from referring legal questions to the ECJ and creates a body to rule on judges’ independence regardless of EU law.
In 2017, a new regulation was passed to set up a disciplinary body to oversee Supreme Court judges. It had the power to waive judges’ immunity and expose them to criminal proceedings. Last year, the ECJ issued temporary injunctions to suspend the disciplinary body. The chambers asked the Constitutional Court to decide whether such EU orders are compatible with the Polish Constitution.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called for the interpretation of the EU treaties to be consistent with the Polish constitution. He claimed that the interpretation of Articles 1 and 19 of the Treaty on European Union was incompatible with the Constitution. Adam Bodnar, the country’s human rights commissioner, and Dr. Paweł Filipek, a specialist at the Faculty of Constitutional Law, represented the opposing side and defended the constitutionality of EU law.
A majority of the Bank found that the EU’s actions on the “system, principles and procedures” of the Polish courts were “inconsistent” with the Polish Constitution. Judge Bartlomiej Sochanski further noted: “With the best will to interpret the Constitution, it is impossible to find the powers of the (EU) Court of Justice to suspend Polish laws over the Polish judicial system.”
Poland’s Deputy Minister of Justice Sebastian Kaleta welcomed the verdict. He said: “The ruling of the Constitutional Court is an important ruling defending Poland’s sovereignty against the unlawful usurpation of EU organs.” However, Adam Bodnar was disappointed with the ruling and said the country was step by step into a legal polexit. He later wrote to the European Commission to inform the European Commission of Poland’s failure to implement a number of EU directives, including those relating to access to defense and legal aid and the lack of an independent constitutional court.
The Court also noted that, although Poland is an EU member, domestic judicial and judicial issues remain the sole competence of the Polish authorities and legislation.
Experts have interpreted Poland’s challenge to EU law as a preliminary first step on the way to Poland’s exit from the EU.