December 18, 2017

Statement of ABA President Hilarie Bass Re: Threat to judicial independence in Poland

WASHINGTON, Dec.18, 2017 — The American Bar Association, in furtherance of the statement issued on July 20, 2017, urges President Andrzej Duda to again veto legislation that would severely undermine the independence of the judiciary in Poland. Like the bills pending in July, the current bills may result in the retirement of about 40 percent of the sitting Supreme Court judges and removal of current judges from the judicial council, which has a constitutional mandate to protect the independence of the judiciary and whose responsibilities include, but are not limited to vetting, appointing and promoting judges. The ABA is concerned that the laws violate the constitution of Poland, in addition to failing to meet international standards regarding the independence of the judiciary.  

This furthers a clear pattern of politicization of the judiciary, starting with the disregard of judgments of the Constitutional Tribunal striking down legislation as unconstitutional and failing to seat judges properly appointed to it. More recently, the minister of justice was granted absolute authority to remove the heads of courts and unilaterally appoint their replacements. 

The ABA has sent a delegation of lawyers to Poland to continue to monitor the situation and support efforts to preserve the independence of the judiciary. We will remain vigilant in our commitment to promote and protect the rule of law and ensure that our colleagues can fulfill their duties without fear or retaliation.

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