Polish govt pushing law to control judges, sparking outcry

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Poland’s right-wing ruling party has drafted legislation to impose new restrictions on judges, saying it seeks to manage a corrupt “caste” of judges that has become too engaged in politics. Critics said the legislation marks a repressive step that flouts the European Union (EU) and its values.

The legislation introduced in the Polish parliament on Thursday is the latest move in the four-year effort by the populist Law and Justice party to gain control of the country’s judiciary.

The proposed law would allow for disciplinary measures against judges who criticise the government’s Law and Justice judicial overhaul.

One provision would make judges eligible for dismissal if they attempt to scrutinise the credentials of a fellow jurist, in line with a ruling by the European Court of Justice.

The Polish Parliament’s press office said it was not clear when the draft legislation would be debated or be put to a vote. President Andrzej Duda has defended the measure, indicating he would not veto it.

Ryszard Terlecki, the head of the Law and Justice parliamentary caucus, insisted on Friday that the law was not repressive but similar to legislation in places like France.

“We must discipline this special caste, and this project is very mild, very delicate,” he said.

His view was not widely shared, with opponents saying it marks a setback for Poland’s 30-year-old democracy.

One critical judge, Igor Tuleya, said the aim was to pressure judges to issue rulings that satisfy the government and vowed that judges would not allow themselves to be intimidated.

Wojciech Hermelinski, a former Constitutional Tribunal justice, said the law would introduce “terror” among judges.