EU court rules against Polish judge secondment system

The European Court of Justice (CJEU) on Tuesday ruled that Poland’s system of seconding judges and terminating secondments was incompatible with EU law.

The case arose after a Polish court asked whether the Polish government’s ability effectively to second one of three judges to a panel ruling on criminal cases or to terminate a secondment infringed the requirement for judicial independence.

In its ruling, the CJEU especially criticised the empowerment of the justice minister to second judges to the courts and recall them at will.

“EU law precludes the regime in force in Poland which permits the Minister for Justice to second judges to higher criminal courts; secondments which that minister – who is also the Public Prosecutor General – may terminate at any time without stating reasons,” the court wrote in a statement.

The ruling could further complicate Poland’s fractious relationship with Brussels over an overhaul of the judicial system by the Polish government, which has prompted allegations that it is intent on undermining the rule of law and the independence of judges, reported the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

In a swift riposte to the ruling, Sebastian Kaleta, a Polish deputy justice minister wrote on Twitter: “Today’s CJEU ruling is a further attempt by the EU to…destabilise the legal system in Poland.”

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