Constitutional justice in Handcuffs? Gloves are off in the Polish Constitutional Conflict

On 31 of August 2016 the influential newspaper Rzeczposplita published an interview with the Deputy Speaker of the Polish Parliament,Ryszard Terlecki. under the ominous title „We will remove judges of the Court who do not apply the law„. In the interview he vows to finally solve the „problem” of the Court. He speaks of removing recalcitrant judges that hurt the Court’s image and are not ready to bow down to the parliamentary majority. He likens upholding the Constitution by the Court to the „the cabaret that must end now” and promises: „we will end it“.

In normal circumstances the interview would not be worthy of a minute of attention. Threatening the sitting constitutional judges would sound the death knell for a politician behind such statements. At best, he would be looked at as a fringe trouble-maker. However, these are not normal circumstances.

The idea of „removing the judges” the speaker alludes to makes more sense in the light of previously reported revelations that already signalled a more radical version of „court packing”. The pro-democracy daily and champion of post-89 transition Gazeta Wyborcza has already raised the alarm by reporting in January 2016 that judges will be handcuffed by the police and removed from the Court’s buildings. As hinted in exasperation by one prominent journalist („How will the Court die”), allowing three judges unconstitutionally elected by PiS to sit now on the Court would require the assistance of the BOR (Polish acronym for the special task force „Office for the Protection of the Government”). The most dramatic article, though, was „Arrest President Rzepliński”. It was written in response to a direct plea by one of the politicians of PiS Janusz Wojciechowski (member of the European Parliament and himself a former judge (!)) who called on the Police authorities to arrest Chief Justice Andrzej Rzeplinski ...

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