Poland’s divisive disciplinary body restores judge to work

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s controversial disciplinary chamber for the country’s top court on Monday changed its own previous ruling and ordered an outspoken judge reinstated to work.

The decision comes as Poland’s leaders are debating abolishing the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, which has been a sore point in Poland’s relations with the European Union and an obstacle in obtaining much-needed EU funds for pandemic recovery. A draft law by President Andrzej Duda on the topic could be debated in parliament this week.

The right-wing government, which is pursuing a generous social policy and extending aid to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian war refugees, is seeking ways to reach an accord with the EU on the issue of the judiciary and obtain the frozen billions of euros.

The EU said it was a breach of the rule of law and launched sanctioning steps after Poland’s government used the disciplinary chamber — which is intended to ensure the highest judicial standards — to sanction and suspend judges who had been critical of changes that put the justice system under political control.

One of the judges, Pawel Juszczyszyn, was suspended and had his earnings reduced in early 2020, and has been battling for reinstatement. On Monday, a one-judge panel of the Disciplinary Chamber ruled that Juszczyszyn’s long suspension violated the independence that judges are entitled to and interfered with Poland’s justice system.

Juszczyszyn’s superior at the court in Olsztyn vowed Monday to reinstate him within weeks.

Other judges are battling against their suspensions, which they see as politically-motivated, including Igor Tuleya of a Warsaw court.

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