Polish Chief Justice Defies Government's Supreme Court Overhaul

Polish pro-democracy activists

Warsaw's conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government says the reform of the Supreme Court requires Gersdorf to end her term, but the judge says the new rules contravene the constitution and can not be implemented.

In the afternoon in the Sejm (lower house), Gersdorf, who presented a closing report on her court for the previous year, said her official status remained the same as before the earlier talks with the president, and stressed that she was constitutionally bound to serve a six-year term.

"Under the constitution, Mrs. Gersdorf has retired because she exceeded the age limit of 65", he told state broadcaster Polish Radio, adding that Gersdorf has not filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court against the new retirement law.

She is now married to Bohdan Zdziennicki, a retired Polish Constitutional Court judge.

The Polish government, in hands of ultraconservative Law and Justice (PiS), has consecrated this Tuesday politicization of judicial system.

She said after showing up for work that she plans to go on holiday from next week, and that Iwulski would be standing in for her during her absence. Its justices also rule on the validity of elections.

The head of Poland's Supreme Court has vowed to resist the government's steps to remove her from the post under a new retirement regulations that she has called a "purge".

Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said swift action was needed to "avoid irreparable damage to the independence of the Supreme Court".

Government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska said Monday that the government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is fulfilling its promise to voters to clean up a broken justice system — changes she said previous governments should have made but didn't.

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Although they contest it, 10 judges have complied with the retirement legislation, a Supreme Court spokeswoman told AFP on Thursday.

Thousands of Poles took to the streets of Warsaw and other Polish cities on Tuesday (3 July) to protest against the government's makeover of the judiciary that takes effect at midnight despite strong objections by the European Union.

"With such an amount we will not win much", Walesa said in front of the protesters outside the Supreme Court building in the centre of Warsaw.

The European Commission opened a fresh legal case against Poland over the Supreme Court changes on Monday, saying they undermine judicial independence in the largest ex-communist EU member state.

All eyes are now on President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling party, who could postpone the judges' retirement.

Powerful PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is widely regarded as Poland's de facto decision-maker and the mastermind behind the contested reforms told the pro-government Gazeta Polska weekly that the judges' defiance was "doomed to a disastrous defeat".

This could lead to Warsaw's European Union voting rights being suspended.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said the law was binding and "for the time being our stance is that we are right".

Critics at home and overseas accuse PiS of seeking control over courts for political gain, and say its policies, which also include tighter control of public media, amount to a shift towards authoritarian rule.

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