Poland: Disciplinary chamber for judges to be dismantled following EU court ruling

The Polish government has agreed to dissolve a controversial disciplinary chamber for judges in a climb-down following a European court ruling.

The European Commission initiated infringement proceedings in April 2020 in regards to the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court on the basis that it threatens the independence of the Polish judiciary.

The matter was brought to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) earlier this year, which concluded that “the disciplinary regime for judges in Poland is not compatible with EU law”.

The Polish government told the European Commission on Monday that it would dismantle the chamber, but insisted a new disciplinary system would have to be introduced, Euronews reports.

The European Commission opposes the disciplinary chamber because, it says, its independence is not guaranteed and it is allowed to take decisions which have a direct impact on judges and the way they exercise their function in breach of EU law.

These decisions include the power to lift the immunity of judges with a view to bringing criminal proceedings against them or to detain them, and the consequent temporary suspension from office and the reduction of their salary.

The law establishing the chamber, which was passed in December 2019, also prevents Polish courts from directly applying certain provisions of EU law protecting judicial independence, and from putting references for preliminary rulings on such questions to the CJEU.