The Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court of Poland Wednesday deprived a Warsaw District Court judge known to be critical of controversial judicial reforms implemented by the ruling rightwing Law and Justice Party (PiS) of his institutional immunity from prosecution. Judge Igor Tuleya was formerly charged with failing to comply with his judicial duties after allowing members of the media to sit-in on a case involving investigations of the 2017 budget vote in the lower house of the Polish parliament (Sejm).
While the Disciplinary Chamber had previously upheld Tuleya’s immunity in February, the prosecution in the case appealed that decision to a three-judge panel, who decided to remove the judge’s immunity. Tuleya showed up to work on Thursday but was prohibited from entering the courtroom. Now, with immunity waived, the prosecution is free to bring charges against the judge in criminal court for his decision to open a hearing to the public.
Last year, Poland’s own Supreme Court questioned the PiS judicial reforms, expressing concerns about potential European Union (EU) law violations. Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights also published a report in 2019 criticizing the judicial reforms implemented by PiS. The European Court of Justice (CJEU) also ruled that one of the reforms, the lowering of the retirement age for Poland’s Supreme Court judges, violated EU Law. Despite the increased international attention, Polish President Andrzej Duda and the PiS party still managed to pass additional legislation altering the judiciary’s structure earlier this year.
The European Court of Justice (CJEU) ordered the Disciplinary Chamber to be suspended in April after determining that the body was not guaranteed to function independently. The IUSTITIA, an independent association of Polish judges, released a statement regarding the Disciplinary Chamber’s decision to revoke Tuleya’s immunity:
Today’s decision on waiving the immunity of judge Igor Tuleya ignores the CJEU ruling of 8 April 2020, blatantly violating community law and the Constitution. Such actions of persons sitting in disciplinary chamber exclude Poland from civilized countries where Rule of Law and independent judiciary are cornerstones of functioning of the state.