The presidential draft amendment to the law on the Supreme Court, which includes the liquidation of the unrecognized Supreme Court Disciplinary Chamber, was passed by the Sejm on Thursday. Even before the vote, the head of the PiS club, Ryszard Terlecki, withdrew amendments restoring the ability to pass the so-called test of a judge’s independence and impartiality with regard to judgments already passed.
The proposed changes to the Supreme Court provisions have been made in line with the European Commission’s demands against Poland. The European Commission has still not approved the National Reconstruction Plan, which was submitted by the government more than a year ago, namely a document describing the way resources from the Reconstruction Fund are spent. The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, reminded in a letter on May 18 that the authority would not approve any reconstruction plan if Poland did not meet the conditions for the reform of the judiciary.
How the voices fell apart
The presidential draft amendments to the Supreme Court law were passed by the Sejm on Thursday evening. 452 deputies voted. 231 were in favour, 208 against, 13 MPs abstained. The bill now goes to the Senate.
In the PiS club with 228 members, 224 voted in favour, the others did not. They were: Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Aleksander Mrówczyński, Waldemar Olejniczak and Bartłomiej Wróblewski.
125 people from the Citizens’ Coalition club were against, one did not vote. In the Lewica club, 43 people were against, one did not vote. All 24 members of the Polish-PSL coalition were against, as were all 8 from Poland 2050, 5 from the agreement and 3 from the circle of the Polish Socialist Party. 11 members of the Confederation abstained. Three members of Kukiz’15 were in favor of the law, one did not vote.
From the circle of Polish Affairs two people were in favour, one abstained and one did not vote. Two independent MPs were in favor and one abstained.
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What does the law offer?
Before the vote, the head of the PiS club, the deputy chairman of the Sejm, Ryszard Terlecki, withdrew Amendments 24 and 25 on behalf of the club. the test of a judge’s independence and impartiality with regard to judgments already rendered. This means that in the current version of the law, the impartiality test will not apply to judgments that are already legally valid.
The passed law provides, among other things, for the liquidation of the unrecognized Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, which in the opinion of many experts, lawyers, judges and constitutionalists is not a court within the meaning of the law. Judges currently ruling on it should be able to move to another chamber or retire. On the other hand, the Chamber of Appeals should be established in the Supreme Court. From all Supreme Court judges, excluding, among others, the presidents of the Supreme Court chambers, 33 would be randomly selected, of whom the president would have to select 11 judges to compose the professional liability chamber for a period of five years.
The “test of impartiality and independence of a judge” envisaged by the amendment, in turn, is to give every citizen – as the president noted – the right to have his case examined by an impartial and independent court. The request to examine the requirements of independence and impartiality may be submitted by a party or a litigant. The amendment also includes a provision allowing – within six months of its entry into force – the possibility to resume cases of judges punished by final disciplinary decisions by an unrecognized disciplinary chamber or of judges whose immunity has been waived.
The parliamentary vote passed more than a dozen amendments proposed by PiS at second reading and assessed positively by the parliamentary justice committee. On the basis of one of the amendments adopted, the preamble has been deleted from the amendment. Several dozen amendments and minority motions tabled by the opposition were rejected.
Working on the bill in the Justice Committee
Law and Justice made amendments on Wednesday, which are partly different from the amendments previously adopted – at the committee’s previous meeting – by Solidarna Polska, a coalition partner of PiS.
At that time, one of the articles related to the possibility of conducting the “test of impartiality and independence” of judges with regard to judgments already issued was deleted – such an amendment was proposed by Solidarna Polska. The judge’s independence test regarding unfinished cases remained in the draft at this stage of the commission’s work.
A few hours before the vote on Thursday, the SP chairman, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, said his party’s amendments had been partially adopted. – But we are still in talks with Law and Justice, maybe this is not the last word, we’ll see – he added.
Main photo source: TVN24