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Poland court defers verdict on legality of some judges

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's constitutional court on Tuesday deferred issuing its ruling on whether recent judicial appointments made under regulations introduced by the right-wing government are legitimate.

The Constitutional Tribunal was asked to decide on the lawfulness of the appointments, which were suggested by a judicial body that critics say the government has politicized. The tribunal also is weighing if Poland's president had full power to put judges on the bench across the country.

The constitutional court held a session Tuesday but put off ruling until March 12. President Andrzej Duda is aligned with the ruling Law and Justice party. Some of the Constitutional Tribunal's judges, including court President Julia Przylebska, also were appointed with the party's backing.

For that reason, the Supreme Court of Poland has argued that the tribunal has no authority to issue rulings. “In the name of the Supreme Court, I declare that the Constitutional Tribunal in its current composition has lost the ability of fair execution of the functions assigned to it,” Supreme Court President Malgorzata Gersdorf said in a letter to the tribunal.

The Supreme Court and government critics say that under the new regulations judicial appointments are politicized, making rulings by those judges flawed and invalid. The case is part of a wider controversy over changes the Law and Justice-led government has made to the judicial system since it came to power in 2015. European Union bodies have said that interference with the judiciary violates the democratic system of checks and balances.

The European Court of Justice said in November it was up to Poland's courts to assess the legality of the recent judge appointments and the validity of verdicts the judges issued. On that basis, the Supreme Court said they were invalid.

The ruling party and the president challenged the Supreme Court's interpretation before the Constitutional Tribunal.

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