On Wednesday, the new National Council of the Judiciary began hearings of candidates for the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court. Three presented themselves, including the prosecutor responsible for submitting applications to the unrecognized Disciplinary Chamber. During the first public meeting, the Council did not take into account the requests of Bartłomiej Starosta from the Association of Polish Judges “Iustitia” to exclude seven members of the National Court Register from the procedure of examining his application. The remaining candidates are due to present themselves on Thursday.
New National Council of the Judiciary – shaped according to the acts amended by Law and Justiceaccording to many experts, politicized due to the way its members are appointed – heard some candidates for judges of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
The hearings were held at the plenary session of the National Council of the Judiciary, so for the first time they were open and broadcast on the Internet. This became possible after the change in the regulations of the body carried out last week. At that time, a provision was added to the rules of procedure stating that – as a rule – the Council hears participants of proceedings in competitions for vacant judicial positions in the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court at a plenary session. The Council is also to familiarize itself with the candidates for the Supreme Court on Thursday.
Not everyone attended the hearing before the new National Council of the Judiciary
Candidates for judges of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court were submitted in connection with three announcements by the president Andrzej Duda on vacant judge positions – of March 30, 2021 and March 11 and October 26, 2022.
Nine candidates are running for the seven vacancies in the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, but not all candidates intend to appear before the National Council of the Judiciary for a hearing. There were three candidates out of five people scheduled to be heard on Wednesday in the National Court Register. Each of the contenders has a quarter of an hour for self-presentation. The next step is to present the legal issue chosen by the candidate, and then he or she answers questions from members of the Council.
The KRS began hearings with Judge Anna Dziergawka from the District Court in Bydgoszcz, a lecturer at the National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution, who appeared in person at the meeting. There, she informed that her total work experience, first in the prosecutor’s office and then in the courts, is 22 years.
She presented her view on the situation in the judiciary in Poland in response to a question about the so-called neo-judges and neo-KRS. This is how people nominated by the new National Council of the Judiciary are called by a large part of the judicial community, including Supreme Court judges.
“I don’t agree with this behavior and I will do my job,” she said. – (It would be good) if the judges of the Supreme Court took care of what is their duty, i.e. adjudication and serving the society, because the Supreme Court began to deal not with the citizen, but with creating its own internal problems – she added.
She also answered other questions. – I am, of course, against the death penalty. I believe that life always gives us a chance and you never know how things will turn out. Moreover, the tightening of the penal provisions, which provides for life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, will come into force soon. This is the maximum punishment, she said.
Motion to exclude members of the new National Court Register rejected. “As an authority, you are not impartial”
Another candidate – judge Bartłomiej Starosta from the District Court in Sulęcin, a member of the Association of Polish Judges “Iustitia” – before presenting his candidacy, applied for exclusion of seven judicial members of the National Court Register from considering his candidacy.
– I am forced to submit applications for exclusion from recognition in the competition. I have evidence that Rafał Puchalski has a negative attitude towards me. I am surprised that he took part in this proceeding and is present here. (…) You yourself said that the judge should be apolitical – he spoke about the vice-president of the National Court Register, pointing to internet entries that Puchalski was supposed to be the author of.
In addition, he applied for the exclusion of the chair of the KRS, Dagmara Pawełczyk-Woicka, as well as Anna Dalkowska, Dariusz Drajewicz, Marek Jaskulski, Zbigniew Łupina and Maciej Nawacki. Vice-President Puchalski argued that he “has a completely indifferent attitude towards the judge Starost”.
The judges against whom the motions were formulated assessed that there were no grounds for their exclusion. By a majority of votes, the Council rejected all requests to exclude individual members.
– As a body, you are not impartial and there is no point in continuing this hearing – judge Starosta judged. At the same time, he expressed hope that “the National Council of the Judiciary will one day be a truly independent and apolitical body.”
He sent letters to the unrecognized Disciplinary Chamber, now he wants to be in the Supreme Court
The third candidate was Marcin Rosiak, a prosecutor of the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Poznań, delegated to the National Prosecutor’s Office, associated with the University of Justice.
– I participated in proceedings before common courts of various levels, while in the Supreme Court I also acted in proceedings due to the fact that part of my work involved submitting applications to the Disciplinary Chamber – said Rosiak.
The unrecognized Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court – which in the opinion of many experts, lawyers, judges and constitutionalists was not a court within the meaning of the law – was liquidated in July 2022. In its place, the Chamber of Professional Responsibility was created. This, however, also raises numerous objections from the judicial community, as well as opposition politicians.
Senator Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, who is a member of the KRS, asked about one of the disciplinary cases in the now-defunct chamber. – As a representative of the Department of Internal Affairs, you conducted the case of Judge Beata Morawiec regarding the application to the Supreme Court to waive her immunity. How was this application assessed? – He was asking. Rosiak decided that “the matter is covered by the secret of the preparatory proceedings and any statement on this subject could lead to a violation of this secret”.
The Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court decided in June 2021 with a final decision to refuse the permit to prosecute judge Morawiec – president of the Association of Judges “Themis”. Prosecutors intended to charge the judge with, inter alia, appropriation of public funds. Judge Morawiec did not agree with these allegations, she considered the case politically motivated.
The remaining candidates will present themselves on Thursday
Hearings of candidates before the National Court Register are to be resumed on Thursday after 10. Decisions on recommendations for the president of the National Council of the Judiciary are to be taken during the vote on Friday.
Pursuant to the Act on the Supreme Court, a person who has only Polish citizenship, enjoys full civil and public rights, has not been legally convicted, is over 40 years old, has an impeccable character, has completed university studies, may be appointed by the president to hold the office of a Supreme Court judge. law, is distinguished by a high level of legal knowledge, is able, due to his health condition, to perform the duties of a judge and has at least ten years of service as a judge, prosecutor, president of the General Counsel to the Republic of Poland, its vice president, counsel, or for at least ten years practiced in Poland the profession of an advocate, legal adviser or notary public.
The last requirement does not apply to persons who hold the academic title of professor or the academic degree of doctor habilitated in legal sciences.
Main photo source: National Council of the Judiciary