Polish special court: some legislation on judges not legal

AP News
Posted: Dec 09, 2015 10:06 AM
Polish special court: some legislation on judges not legal

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's Constitutional Tribunal has struck down parts of legislation passed by the new ruling party aimed at appointing judges to the court who are sympathetic to the government's conservative program.

The court argued that elements in the legislation adopted by Parliament last month are against the constitution.

The verdict seems to undermine recent appointments to the court's ranks that were later approved by President Andrzej Duda.

The verdict is a new development in an unprecedented legal drama gripping Poland, revolving around influence in the Constitutional Court, the highest arbiter of law in the country.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Poland's president on Wednesday swore in the last of five judges named to the Constitutional Tribunal by the right-wing ruling party — nominations that are being called an illegal power grab by critics.

President Andrzej Duda swore in the judge only an hour before the same court convened to rule on the legality of the appointments, recently made by the parliament.

Critics and many law experts argue that an incorrect procedure was used in parliament, making the appointments invalid.

The developments are the latest in a complex legal drama gripping Poland.

The previous government, led by the Civic Platform party, made five nominations to the Constitutional Tribunal — the final arbiter of law in Poland — shortly before losing power. Three of those have been declared valid by the same court, but two were declared against the constitution.

But the new ruling party, Law and Justice, voided all five in order to place party loyalists on the court, a step now confirmed by Duda, who won the presidency on a Law and Justice ticket.

Duda, a lawyer, defended his moves Wednesday, saying that the constitutional court has no competence to rule on parliamentary resolutions.

"These resolutions remain binding and the president is acting on them today," he said.

The start of the court's session was disturbed by two right-wing activists with banners stating that judges with a communist past should be removed from Poland's courts. Also, small groups of supporters and opponents of the ruling party gathered in front of the court.