Polish opposition takes to the streets over judicial reforms

Malgorzata Gersdorf said she was defending the rule of law

Malgorzata Gersdorf said she was defending the rule of law

Warsaw's conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government says the reform of the Supreme Court requires Gersdorf to end her term, but the judge says the new rules contravene the constitution and can not be implemented.

The crowd chanted "Judges are not removable!" as the court's First President Malgorzata Gersdorf showed up for work, saying that according to the constitution, her six-year term runs through 2020, AP said.

Reuters reports that today Polish Supreme Court Chief Malgorzata Gersdorf (65) was back in court saying, "my presence here is not about politics, I am here to protect the rule of law".

Gersdorf had been told to step down at midnight because of a new law that lowers the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65. If it refuses to reverse course, Poland could be ordered to desist from implementation until the court of justice has issued its ruling.

The Polish Constitutional Court also underwent controversial reforms in 2016 that critics alleged was unconstitutional and stacked it with PiS allies.

"I will go to my office on Wednesday, but whether I will be let in is another matter", Gersdorf said, according to The Guardian.

Hailing from a renowned Warsaw family with deep roots in the legal profession, Gersdorf's father Miroslaw was also a respected law professor and judge.

The new law could have sweeping consequences for the Supreme Court, potentially impacting almost half its judges in what critics call a purge, as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reported: "The government claims the forced retirements are aimed at fighting corruption and improving judicial efficiency".

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Seven of the Constitutional Court's 15 judges on Thursday signed a letter accusing the body's chief justice Julia Przylebska of "abnormalities" in appointing judicial panels and presiding judges in cases the court adjudicates.

Government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska said Monday that the government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is fulfilling its promise to voters to clean up a broken justice system — changes she said previous governments should have made but didn't.

Under the measures due to come into effect at midnight on Tuesday, almost 37 percent of Supreme Court judges will be forced to retire unless they are granted an extension by Duda, a PiS ally.

More protests were held late Wednesday in a number of cities and Lech Walesa, the legendary pro-democracy fighter and Solidarity leader in the 1980s, addressed the cheering crowd in front of the Supreme Court building. Participants of the picket wanted to draw attention to the false statements of the Polish authorities propagated on the forum of the European Union.

Pawel Mucha, an adviser to President Andrzej Duda, told reporters Ms Gersdorf's retirement results from the "force of law".

Warsaw has been trying to overhaul its judiciary and faces accusations that it has taken de facto control of the justice system in a move that the European Union says is anti democratic.

In announcing its procedure, the European Commission, which polices EU law, said the measures "undermine the principle of judiciary independence". "With no guarantees of basic freedoms, the fundamental rights of Polish citizens will be destroyed sooner or later".

Unless Poland responds sufficiently to the EU's challenges, they could risk losing voting rights and funding.

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