Poland announced on July 3 that its top judge will need to retire on July 4 in line with a controversial reform passed by the right-wing government. But the chief justice herself has refused to step down.
As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Chief Justice Malgorzata Gersdorf branded the Supreme Court reform lowering the retirement age of its judges from 70 to 65 a “purge”.
And she said she was defying the reform that cuts short her constitutionally guaranteed six-year term ending in 2020.
“As for my status – as the Supreme Court chief justice – it has not changed after my talks with the president, because the constitution gives me a six-year term,” Gersdorf told lawmakers in parliament after holding talks with President Andrzej Duda.
Meanwhile, the European Union on July 2 launched legal action against Poland due to the reform. The dispute could end up in the European Court of Justice.
According to AFP, the Polish government insists the reforms are needed to tackle corruption and overhaul a judicial system still haunted by the communist era. Twenty-seven of the top court’s 73 judges are affected by the reform.
The European Commission on July 2 said the changes would undermine “the irremovability of judges” and judicial independence in Poland, breaching the country’s obligations under EU law.
Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said swift action was needed to “avoid irreparable damage to the independence of the Supreme Court”.
Poland has a month to respond to the commission’s formal announcement, the first stage of a procedure that the ECJ may be asked to rule on.
According to Poland’s deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski, the ECJ will face a “very difficult task”.
“Its decision will be very important for the EU because it will define the extent to which EU law can interfere in the autonomy of member states in the way they organise their judicial systems,” Szymanski told AFP.
In a separate report, Bloomberg reported on July 3 Polish President Andrzej Duda named his pick to lead the country’s highest court, the next step in a controversial judicial overhaul.
Even as Chief Justice Malgorzata Gersdorf refused to accept being forced into retirement as part of the overhaul, Duda named Judge Jozef Iwulski as his choice for acting head of the Supreme Court from July 4.