The government of Poland has proposed a measure to roll back a controversial piece of legislation lowering the compulsory retirement age for the Polish judiciary.
The Polish judiciary retirement legislation, which came into force in July, abruptly lowered Polish judges’ age of retirement from 70 to 65; and was seen as an attempt by the ruling Law and Justice party to install judges of their choosing on the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court president Małgorzata Gersdorf, who along with 11 other Supreme Court judges was forced out of her role over summer by the new Polish judiciary retirement age, told Warsaw University students at the time that the legislation was “a purge under the guise of a retrospective change of the retirement age,” adding: “Lawyers cannot be silent in the face of the evil that has been inflicted on the Polish judicial system. For me, as the first president of the Supreme Court, it is a sad day. The Supreme Court as we know it, its organizational independence and competence are coming to an end.”
In September the Polish Council for the Judiciary (KRS) was suspended from the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ), which unites the judicial systems of Member States, after a fact-finding trip to Warsaw by the ENCJ found the Polish judiciary was no longer genuinely independent of the executive and legislature.
In October the European Commission filed an action against Poland with the European Court of Justice (ECJ), alleging that the new rules for the Polish judiciary were in breach of EU law. The ECJ promptly reversed all actions taken by the Polish government pertaining to the judicial system since April. The ECJ’s ruling stated: “The requirement of judicial independence forms part of the essence of the fundamental right to a fair trial.”
Today’s amendment allows members of the Polish judiciary who were forcibly retired in July to return to work. The government has threatened to appeal against the ECJ’s decision, which does not carry the right of appeal.