Top Polish court backs gov’t legislation of choice of judges

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A top court in Poland ruled Monday that controversial rules introduced by the right-wing government that allow lawmakers to choose members of a judicial body are in line with the constitution.

The verdict by the Constitutional Tribunal backs the government in its bitter dispute with critics in Poland and in the European Union who say that only judges should have the right to choose members of the Supreme Judicial Council.

Reading the verdict, Judge Justyn Piskorski said that there is nothing in the constitution that would deny judges the right to choose the council’s members, but that right is not limited to judges only.

“The fact that the council represents judicial circles results not from the method its members are chosen, but from the fact that majority of its members are judges, which the constitution guarantees,” Piskorski said.

Critics, however, claim that the tribunal itself lacks impartiality because many of its members were appointed by the ruling party following another rule change that provoked protests inside and outside the country.

Opposition lawmaker Kamila Gasiuk-Pichowicz criticized the tribunal’s verdict saying it was illogical and that its point was to “deliver political munition to the ruling party.”

The Supreme Judicial Council’s task is to safeguard judicial independence. It issues opinions on new legislation concerning judges, as well as on appointments to high judicial posts.

Despite criticism and street protests, the ruling conservative Law and Justice party in 2017 pushed through legislation allowing the parliament to choose 15 out of the council’s 25 members. Previously, they were chosen by judges.

Critics say the move gives the government control of the council and violates judicial independence.

The EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg is also analyzing the independence of the judicial council and is to rule in the coming months.

The remaining 10 members of the council are lawmakers and senators, the heads of two top courts, the justice minister and a representative of the nation’s president.

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