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New president of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court: there will be no mixed benches

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I don’t want to cause additional conflicts. However, I want the work of the Chamber to proceed in a substantive and calm manner. That is why I will never appoint such teams against judges, Zbigniew Kapiński, the new president of the Supreme Court’s Criminal Chamber, told PAP.

The president appointed Zbigniew Kapiński as the president of the Criminal Chamber on Wednesday, due to the expiration of May 26, the term of office of the current president Michał Laskowski. Kapiński’s opponents in the race for this position were the outgoing president and judge Kazimierz Klugiewicz. Kapiński, who joined the Supreme Court in June last year, previously ruled for over twenty years in the Warsaw Court of Appeal.

In an interview with the Polish Press Agency, Judge Kapiński was asked whether, as president of the Chamber, he would appoint the so-called mixed adjudicating benches, i.e. those in which the so-called new and old judges would sit. So far, such compositions have not been appointed in this Chamber. As it was argued, this practice functioned due to doubts regarding the appointment of new judges and protection of the parties to the proceedings against possible invalidity of the ruling.

I think it’s in the interest of the House. I don’t want to cause additional conflicts. However, I want the work of the Chamber to proceed in a substantive and calm manner. That’s why I will never appoint such lineups against the judges. However, I will talk to the judges and persuade them to change their approach to those who have so far refused to adjudicate with new judges, said Kapiński.

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Kapiński: I will urge you to return to unity

The new president of the Criminal Chamber also announced that he would like to talk to judges about divisions and conflicts among judges existing in the Chamber. – It’s not really a secret. There is division and conflict and I regret it because I believe that they do not serve anyone. I will encourage you to return to unity, but I will not force it – he said.

When asked how he intends to convince the judges to do so, he replied: “There is no simple solution here and I will not say that I already have a prescription, because I would be lying.” “However, I want to know the judges’ positions and I believe that we will be able to get out of this difficult situation together. Because no one will do it for us. Politicians will not do it, citizens will not do it for us. And our agreement is in the interest of the state, the judiciary and, above all, in the interest of the parties to the trial, he added.

Supreme Court Elizabeth Krzysztof / Shutterstock.com

The new president of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court: I implement my political views only at the ballot box

When asked whether he expected to be appointed president of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, Kapiński said that he made the decision to run consciously. “I got nine votes, coming second in the selection of candidates, and I knew my candidacy was on the table. I was counting on it. However, I admit that there was some surprise – he added.

– I took it as recognition of my professional achievements and my refereeing attitude. I heard from the president that he took into account my many years of judicial experience when choosing. Because for over 20 years I have been adjudicating in the Court of Appeal in Warsaw, where very serious cases involving complex issues are focused as if through a lens. As a judge, I ruled in the most difficult cases: lustration, FOZZ, Kiszczak’s case, which we brought to an end – he said.

– But I also heard from the president that no participant in court proceedings should ever know the political views of the judge who decides in his case. I agree with this and it is a cardinal rule for me. I exercise my political views only at the ballot box. A judge cannot identify himself with any political authority. I believe that the judge should speak in judgments and justifications. And that’s why I’ve only given one interview so far – said Kapiński.

When asked whether he would also leave his political views at home when managing the Supreme Court, he replied that “nothing will change here”. – There will be no situation where my actions in managing the Criminal Chamber will be identified with specific political views or the influence of specific politicians. I can’t even imagine such a situation, there is no such possibility – he added.

Kapiński on the problem of repealing judgments

The new president of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court was also asked if he had already noticed any problems that required an urgent solution in the Supreme Court. – Yes, and it applies to the entire SN. This is the problem of overturning judgments due to the participation in the adjudicating panel of judges proposed for appointment by the current National Council of the Judiciary. Judges whom some call neo-judges. I deeply disagree with that. This is very harmful from the point of view of the parties to the proceedings, the judiciary and, consequently, Poland. I do not find any substantive justification for such a procedure – he replied.

When asked if he saw any way out of this situation, he said that “the basis for such annulment of judgments is the so-called resolution of three chambers of the Supreme Court.” – I believe that it is a fundamental problem and the fact that it was passed in the past still has a negative impact on the functioning of the Polish justice system. The political involvement of some judges is also of great importance here, he assessed.

– As the President of the Chamber, however, I will have certain powers and duties, beyond which I cannot go. Will they allow me to resolve this situation? I don’t know. I think it’s too early to talk about the concrete steps I will take as president.”

Main photo source: Elizabeth Krzysztof / Shutterstock.com

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