The European Court of Justice has ruled that the Polish government broke EU law by forcing the judges of the Supreme Court of Poland into early retirement, saying that the government’s move breached the independence of the judiciary.
“The Court holds that the application of the measure lowering the retirement age of the judges of the Supreme Court to the judges in post within that court is not justified by a legitimate objective and undermines the principle of the irremovability of judges, that principle being essential to their independence,” the ECJ said in its statement on June 24, adding that the Polish law raises “serious doubts as to the real aims of that reform.”
The reform put forward by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) would have required Supreme Court judges to resign at the age of 65, forcing 20 of the 72 top court judges in Poland into early retirement. While PiS argued that the reform had been necessary to standardise the judiciary system and make the fight against corruption more efficient, critics considered it an attempt to remove opposition-leaning members of the judiciary.
After the law entered into force in July 2018, the EU’s highest court ruled that Poland should suspend the law until the case is decided. Facing both domestic and EU pressure, especially from the European Commission, the Polish government decided to backtrack from the controversial reform, with Polish president Andrzej Duda signing a law to reinstate the judges in question in December.