Polish prosecutors said Thursday that they have begun an investigation into Constitutional Tribunal [official website] head, Andrzej Rzeplinski, to determine if he abused his power in preventing judges appointed by the ruling party to take part in decisions. Likely the investigation [NYT report] is meant to discredit the judge, who is immune from prosecution by virtue of his position. The investigation is the most recent development in the fight between the ruling right-wing government, Law and Justice (PiS), and the Constitutional Tribunal, which operates much like the US Supreme Court, stemming from a incident before PiS came into power. In particular, PiS has been accused of illegally appointing three judges where the previous ruling party had already legally filled those positions.
PiS has drawn ire from those in the international community for threatening democracy in Poland. In June the European Commission issued a warning to Poland over the appointment of the three judges. The European Union began examining Poland’s decision regarding the Constitutional Court [JURIST reports] in January. In February the Polish government passed a controversial surveillance law [JURIST report] that grants the government [press release, Polish] greater access to digital data and broader use of surveillance for law enforcement. The PiS, a conservative party elected in October, holds an overwhelming majority [BBC report] of positions in the Polish government including the lead in both parliamentary houses and the presidency. In December the leader of the European Parliament [official website] compared PiS’ rise to power in Poland to a coup [BBC report], leading to Parliament calling for an apology. PiS has rejected [DW report] criticisms that its policies are undermining democracy in Poland. However, there is a larger concern in the EU that new Polish law will erode checks and balances on government powers.