#Poland ordered to suspend activities of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court with immediate effect

| April 8, 2020

The EU’s Court of Justice has ordered Poland to immediately suspend the application of the powers of its ‘Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court’, writes Catherine Feore.

The Court rejected Polish claims that the European Commission’s case was inadmissible; while acknowledging that the organisation of justice is an EU member states responsibility, the Court stated that EU states are required to comply with their obligations deriving from EU law, in particular the principle of the independence of the judiciary. The interim measures agree today are “to avoid serious and irreparable harm to the interests of the EU.”

The European Commission was concerned that without interim relief the mere prospect that judges may be subject to disciplinary proceedings was likely to affect their own independence and working. This in turn would cause serious damage to the rights which individuals derive from EU law and values, in particular the rule of law.

The Commission reserved the right to seek the payment of a fine if it becomes apparent from the information from Poland that it has not complied in full with the interim measures ordered following its request for interim relief.

Background 

In 2017, Poland adopted the new disciplinary regime for judges of the Sąd Najwyższy (Supreme Court, Poland) and its ordinary courts. Specifically, under that legislative reform, a new Disciplinary Chamber was created within the Supreme Court. The jurisdiction of the court covers, among other things, disciplinary cases concerning judges of the Supreme Court and, on appeal, those concerning judges of the ordinary courts. 

The National Council of the Judiciary, ‘the KRS’, is selected by elected members of the Polish Parliament and is not considered to meet European standards of independence. Despite earlier judgments that the disciplinary court cannot be regarded as an independent  tribunal for the purposes of either EU law or Polish law, the court continued to perform its judicial functions. 

On  23 January 2020, the Commission requested the Court of Justice, an immediate ruling (interim relief, until a final judgement): (1) to suspend the application of its jurisdiction in disciplinary cases concerning judges; (2) to refrain from referring cases pending before the disciplinary court; and (3) to communicate to the Commission, at the latest one month after notification of the order of the Court of Justice imposing the requested interim measures, all the measures that it has adopted in order comply in full with that order.

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Category: A Frontpage, EU, European Commission, Featured Article, Poland

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