Who’s next? On the Future of the Rule of Law in Poland, and why President Duda will not save it

With the latest draft laws about the judiciary, the Law and Justice party (PiS) has crossed yet another line. President Duda’s announcement of a veto appears on first sight to present an obstacle to PiS’ march towards completely unrestricted, unitary state power. In this post, I will examine first what effects the PiS drafts will have on the independence of the judiciary by the hands of PiS and then, whether or not President Duda’s so-called veto holds what it seems to promise.

Three powers become one

Last week parliament passed a bill of amendment to the Act on the National Council of the Judiciary (NCJ), the special selection board that decides who fills judges' positions, thereby giving politicians full control over the appointment and promotion of judges. Parliament also passed a bill of amendment to the Courts Act which gives the Minister of Justice huge influence over presidents heading the work of the courts.

As if this were not enough, on Wednesday evening another bill on the judiciary was passed to the Sejm which supplements the above steps in PiS’s plans for unitary state power. Their executive takeover of the NCJ would be of little use if there were no vacancies that board could fill, and the specific aim of the latest bill, which targets the Supreme Court, is to create vacancies at the very top of the judicial hierarchy. Almost overnight, all Supreme Court judges, except those chosen by Minister of Justice are to be sent into retirement.

This latest onslaught on the independence of the judiciary shows that the multi-stage process of violating the Polish Constitution, which started with an attack on the Constitutional Tribunal (CT) and the National Broadcasting Council, is fully underway. PiS’s serial violation of the Constitution is obliged by its political programme of changing the state system without officially amending the Constitution, for which it does not have a sufficient parliamentary majority ...

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