Committee for Justice and Human Rights working on Supreme Court and National Judiciary Council Bills
The Sejm Committee for Justice and Human Rights is working on the proposals of amendments to the Supreme Court Act and the National Judiciary Council Act submitted by the President of Poland.
On Tuesday, 28 November, the Committee accepted a report on the proposed amendments to the NJCA. Today (29 November), it is focusing its attention on the new Supreme Court Act.
Are proposals constitutional?
The President’s proposals seek to introduce measures that raise serious concerns regarding their constitutional compatibility. The bills attempt to empower the Sejm to appoint 15 judge-members of the National Council of the Judiciary and introduce significant changes to the disciplinary procedure for judges of common courts and the Supreme Court.
The ruling majority has submitted many modifications to the presidential proposals. Deputies want to select the judge members of the National Council of the Judiciary in “blocks”, according to a list drafted by the relevant Sejm committee, and seek to give the right to present candidates for the judge-members to a group of 25 prosecutors.
The Sejm also submitted a range of modifications to the proposed Supreme Court Act. Ruling party deputies proposed, among other things, that the new Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court should be given vast autonomy, which would effectively make the whole Supreme Court an institution subordinate to one of its own Chambers. The proposed changes limit the grounds for the extraordinary complaint, which is to be no longer available in cases older than five years and also in misdemeanour cases. According to a proposed modification, groups of deputies or senators have no longer right to submit complaints of this type.
How Committee works
The proposed acts are proceeded quickly, which evokes emotional reactions from the Committee members. Each person who takes the floor has only a minute for laying down their argument. Opposition deputies, guests and representatives of the Legislation Office of the Sejm have expressed many doubts as to the constitutionality of the proposed measures. Despite this, the Committee has been accepting subsequent modifications to the Supreme Court Act.
HFHR, Amnesty International, and “Iustitia” issue position statement
Amnesty International, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Association of Polish Judges “Iustitia” have issued a joint position statement on the President’s legislative proposals. According to the organisations, the proposed changes lead directly to the undermining of the trias politica principle in Poland and may turn judges’ to enforcers of the political will of the policymakers. The statement underscores that the proposals have proceeded in a way that violates the lawmaking standards and principles of a democratic state ruled by law.
“We call on the representatives of the legislative and executive to legislate the matter prudently and base any decisions on a fact-based discussion and accurate public consultations and also to ensure that partisan political interests have no bearing on the process of reforms that affect the implementation of principles and values expressed in the Constitution of the Republic of Poland”, reads the statement.