European court declares Polish judicial reform illegal

European court

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) declared illegal this Monday (06.05.2023) the judicial reform of 2019 in Poland that gave rise to a Disciplinary Chamber for the magistrates of the Supreme Court of that country and that, although since then it has been amended, continues to cause concern in Brussels about the risks to the independence of the judiciary.

“The mere prospect that the judges who have jurisdiction to apply Union Law run the risk that said body may rule on issues relating to its statute and the exercise of its functions (…) may affect its independence,” the Court of Justice of the European Union said in a statement.

Warsaw accumulated up to today 555.5 million euros in fines for not applying a precautionary stoppage of the activity of this chamber of the Supreme Court, which initially allowed judges to be subject to disciplinary investigations, procedures and sanctions based on the content of their decisions legal proceedings, including the exercise of your right to refer questions for a preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Million-dollar unpaid fine

This fine of one million euros a day (500,000 euros since April 21), which Poland has refused to pay after 16 requests from Brussels and which the Commission has compensated by not disbursing other community funds, stops rising as of today having pronounced the judgment on the merits of the matter.

From the point of view of the European Commission, later endorsed by the community court, the Polish reform undermines the independence of judges and does not provide the necessary guarantees to protect them from political control.

Obligations of EU members

The Community Court based in Luxembourg reaffirms that Member States must comply with the obligations derived from Union law and “are obliged to ensure that they avoid any regression, in terms of the value of the rule of law, of their legislation on judicial organization”, without being able to hide behind “internal provisions or jurisprudence, including those of constitutional rank”.

In this sense, the controversial Polish disciplinary chamber “does not satisfy the requirement of independence and impartiality”, the Court abounds, which indicates that the work of judges can be affected by the ability of this chamber to open criminal proceedings against them or order his arrest.

“The measures adopted by the Polish legislator are incompatible with the guarantees of access to an independent, impartial court previously established by law,” says the CJEU, which criticizes the “monopolistic control” that a single body would have to verify compliance with effective legal protection.