Poland: Top court judges return from forced retirements

A woman walks with her dog past Poland's Supreme Court building where some judges who had been forced by the conservative government to retire returned to work after a European court ordered their reinstatement, in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. The banner reads "Constitution," which is the catchword for the opposition .(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Several Supreme Court judges in Poland returned from government-imposed retirements Monday after the European Union’s top court ordered their reinstatements.

Dozens of supporters chanted “Constitution,” the catchword of the anti-government opposition, as they greeted the six judges as they headed into the Supreme Court building, ready to resume work.

Twenty-three of the court’s judges were forced to retire in July after a new law took effect that lowered the retirement age for justices to 65 from 70.

EU leaders have challenged the retirement law in the European Court of Justice, which on Friday issued a temporary injunction suspending the law and ordering the reinstatement of the forced-out judges. A ruling on the law is expected later.

The EU court’s order was a blow to the policies of Poland’s conservative government, which insists it wanted to remove judges who were active during the country’s communist era to make the court fairer.

The change was part of a broader judicial overhaul undertaken by the government since the ruling Law and Justice party came to power in 2015. Critics say the party is undermining the judicial independence guaranteed in Poland’s constitution.

Supreme Court First President Malgorzata Gersdorf was among the judges who reclaimed their posts. She said the court’s order was a “kind of win” for the judges.

“We will see what comes next, but for the time being the situation is good, life is beautiful,” Gersdorf said.

Gersdorf called on all the forced-out judges to return to work and they were all expected back this week, Supreme Court spokesman Michal Laskowski said.

Margaritis Schinas, spokesman for the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, welcomed the European court’s injunction, but stressed the need for continuing dialogue with Poland’s government over the judiciary overhaul.

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