The Court of Justice of the EU issued an order for the immediate suspension of Poland’s Disciplinary Chamber Wednesday.
The Disciplinary Chamber was created within the Supreme Court of Poland by the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) in 2017. The chamber has the power to punish judges through a variety of disciplinary actions, including cutting their salaries or suspending them from work entirely. PiS maintains that the chamber is needed to make the judiciary more efficient and to root out the last strands of communism, which ended in Poland more than 30 years ago. Critics of the ruling party say that the Disciplinary Chamber is a mechanism to silence judges who do not support PiS reforms.
The European Commission, the body that shapes EU strategy and policy, asked the Court of Justice to suspend the Disciplinary Chamber as being inconsistent with EU law. In the order issued yesterday, the court, noting that EU member states must “ensure that the disciplinary regime applicable to judges of the national courts … complies with the principle of the independence of the judiciary.” For the judges who sit on Poland’s Supreme Court, the order found that “the mere prospect that they may be subject to disciplinary proceedings which may be referred to a body whose independence would not be guaranteed is likely to affect their own independence.”
Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said that the order would be referred to Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, whose function is to settle disputes regarding the constitutionality of state activities.