The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on November 19 that it is up to Poland’s Supreme Court to decide if a newly-created disciplinary chamber is independent, and therefore establish whether or not it should be settling disputes regarding the retirement of supreme court judges.
However, the EU’s top court stopped short of ruling Poland’s new disciplinary chamber was illegal.
The ECJ had been asked to rule on the matter in a case brought by three Polish supreme court judges who filed a legal complaint after they were forced into retirement under widespread legal reforms introduced by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS).
The ECJ ruled that the Polish judges must have recourse to an independent body, but referred back to the Polish court to make this assessment, as well as noting that a number of factors could call into question the new chamber’s independence from political influence.
Retirement cases must “be examined by a court which meets the requirements of independence and impartiality and which, were it not for that provision, would have jurisdiction in the relevant field,” said the ECJ in its assessment.
Later on November 19, Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, set out plans to strengthen the state’s role in the economy and deepen an overhaul of the justice system that has put Warsaw on a collision course with its European Union partners.
He gave no real details of the further reforms PiS plans to take. However, he said that more reform is needed to make the court system more efficient.
Opponents have long claimed that the reforms made so far have politicised the justice system.