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Poland constitutional court strikes down legal reforms

[JURIST] Poland's Constitutional Court [official website, in Polish] ruled [judgment, in Polish; press release, in Polish] Wednesday that controversial government reforms to the court violate the constitution [text]. The ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) [party website, in Polish] pushed the legislation through [JURIST report] in December, creating deep divisions in the country and sparking widespread protests. The new legislation required the court to have 13 judges present, as well as a two-thirds majority vote to make a ruling. The previous procedures required only nine judges present and a basic majority of the 15 total judges. The legislation also implemented a longer waiting period for a ruling to be made from the time a decision is solicited, increasing from two weeks to to three to six months. Wednesday's ruling will likely increase tensions within the country, as Prime Minister Beata Szydlo has already pledged not to abide by it [WSJ report].

The PiS has made numerous controversial reforms since taking power last fall. Last month President Andrzej Duda approved a new law that grants the government greater access to digital data and broader use of surveillance [JURIST report] for law enforcement. In January Duda signed [JURIST report] a controversial media control bill into law. Under that law, the treasury minister will replace the National Broadcasting Council in appointing and removing media executives in charge of public radio and television programming. The European Commission announced in January that it had begun an assessment of the rule of law [JURIST report] in Poland, in response to the government's reforms.

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