One Law, Two Justices

Poland’s prolonged rule of law crisis goes beyond the political and legal to the psychological. Those who believe in the value of respect for the law, the inviolability of the constitution and the independence of the courts have seen the things they believe in ruthlessly destroyed. They are likely to be experiencing a psychological trauma.

A Question of Revenge

This psychological dimension should not be underestimated as it is entwined with the desire both for a return to normality and for justice. Whenever I have spoken publicly about the rule of law crisis, both at public meetings and to the media, I have been asked two questions: the first concerns revenge, the second concerns restoring order. Will those who caused the crisis be punished – will they be “taught a lesson”, put in prison? And can the mess can be cleared up – will we be able to restore respect for the Constitution, courts, public prosecutor’s office and other public institutions?

The answers to both questions are closely related. The style in which Poland will punish those behind the crisis once it is over will determine whether and how quickly we will be able to restore order. The style in which we restore order will determine the moral authority of those doing the punishing as will perceptions of fairness of that punishment.

A Question of Style

Some of the proposals for restoring post-crisis order focus on effectiveness to the exclusion of any other considerations. For example, one prominent politician, Ludwik Dorn, noted that if the winners of the next elections wish to restore the previous constitutional order for the Constitutional Tribunal and the courts, they will have to revert to legal measures identical to those used by the current authorities against those institutions ...

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