Deputy Disciplinary Commissioner Przemysław Radzik wants to prosecute 1,278 judges in Poland for signing a letter to the OSCE. In the letter, judges demanded OSCE to monitor the presidential elections planned for 10 May 2020.
Radzik targets the defiant judges by engaging all the local disciplinary commissioners. This will be a record-breaking wholesale disciplinary action for the judges defending judicial independence.
Over the past two years, the chief disciplinary commissioner, Piotr Schab, and his two deputies, Przemysław Radzik and Michał Lasota – all nominated by the Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro – have been “winding up” all the time. They prosecuted individual judges for defending independent courts in Poland.
But since President Andrzej Duda won the elections in July, they have been going all out. They have already initiated wholesale proceedings against groups of a dozen or so judges, but the latest actions are being taken on an unprecedented scale.
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Radzik, the “defender” of the Constitution
The judges asked the OSCE to monitor the presidential elections by postal vote planned for 10 May, which were later cancelled by the Law and Justice (PiS) party. The judges criticised the changes to the electoral law. They were also concerned as to whether such elections would be fair.
In addition, judges wrote that the Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs of the Supreme Court, which was established by PiS and which rules on the legality of the elections, was filled with judges selected in a defective procedure (the judges were chosen by the new National Council of Judiciary, appointed by politicians), which resulted in a lack of independence of this chamber.
Ziobro’s disciplinary commissioner took an interest in this letter in early August. This is the date of his letter sent to the local disciplinary commissioners. Radzik asked them whether they had already initiated any explanatory proceedings “with regard to each of the judges/signatories of this letter [to the OSCE – ed.] committing any disciplinary offences”.
This is because Radzik believes that the judges who signed the letter breached Article 179, para. 3 of the Constitution, which provides that “a judge shall not belong to a political party, a trade union or perform public activities which are incompatible with the principles of independence of the courts and the impartiality of judges.”
He alleges that the signatories of the letter were conducting precisely such activities which are prohibited for judges by the Constitution. Another of Radzik’s accusations applies to questioning the legality of judges adjudicating in the Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs of the Supreme Court.
In his letter, the deputy disciplinary commissioner demands that the local disciplinary commissioners, who have already initiated investigations against the signatories of the letter to the OSCE, send him a copy of the order regarding their initiation.
However, if they have not yet initiated such proceedings, they are to explain themselves with a “justification for such a position.” Radzik gave them until 1 September to respond. Iustitia the largest association of independent judges in Poland posted his letter on Twitter.
Pressure on the local disciplinary commissioners
Przemysław Radzik’s letter to the local disciplinary commissioners at the district and appellate courts shows that Ziobro’s people are heading for a total attack on defiant judges.
This is because such record-breaking disciplinary action is absurd and will be extensively commented on in the EU.
It arises from Radzik’s letter that he has already decided that the 1,278 judges who signed the letter are liable on disciplinary charges. But he cannot investigate them all himself and he almost certainly does not want to do so.
The letter was also signed by a group of judges of the Supreme Administrative Court and the voivodship administrative courts. They have a separate disciplinary commissioner. Consequently, Radzik can prosecute all the ordinary court judges, which he is allowed to do by the Muzzle Act passed by PiS in 2019.
But prosecuting so many signatories of the letter to the OSCE is a lot of work. Therefore, Radzik is pressuring local disciplinary commissioners to initiate proceedings for this letter against district and regional judges, including retired judges.
He, himself, can initiate proceedings against appellate judges who also signed the letter to the OSCE and there are fewer of them.
Ziobro’s disciplinary commissioner took steps to avoid his letter being disregarded. He wants the local commissioners to send copies of orders instituting proceedings against judges. What for? This may be a suggestion that the failure to do so can result in disciplinary action or the failure to be appointed for another term of office.
The suggestion is not unreasonable. In the Muzzle Act, PiS assigned the appointment of local disciplinary commissioners to the chief disciplinary commissioner, Piotr Schab (Radzik is his deputy).
The threat of disciplinary action is also real, because Ziobro’s commissioners are already investigating the deputy disciplinary commissioner at the Court of Appeal in Poznań, Mariola Głowacka, who refused to raise disciplinary charges against the judge who acquitted the wife of the mayor of Poznań.
“In his letter, Radzik is interfering with the work of the disciplinary commissioners at the courts. He is leading them to believe that they can also be overzealous. If they follow in his footsteps, they will lose face,” Iustitia’s press officer Bartłomiej Przymusiński tells OKO.press. And he adds: “If it continues like this, soon 95 percent of judges in Poland will face disciplinary charges for being decent.”
The commissioner from Piotrków Trybunalski was the first to prosecute for the letter to the OSCE
As OKO.press established, the first effect of Radzik’s letter has already appeared. Judge Maciej Romotowski, deputy disciplinary commissioner at the Regional Court in Suwałki, demanded explanations from three Suwałki judges who signed the letter to the OSCE. This applies to Judges Dominik Czeszkiewicz (member of the management board of the Themis association of judges who is active in the defence of the free courts), Adam Kowalczyk and Beata Sznejder.
The commissioner in Suwałki is asking them to take a position on whether signing the letter was the taking up of public activity, which is inconsistent with the principles of independence and impartiality of judges.
However, the idea of prosecuting judges/signatories of the letter to the OSCE arose several weeks earlier.
The deputy disciplinary commissioner at the Regional Court in Piotrków Trybunalski, Anna Gąsior-Majchrowska, was the first to think this up. She initiated explanatory proceedings with respect to 15 district court judges from the region of the Piotrków regional court in the middle of May 2020, including the deputy head of Iustitia, Tomasz Marczyński (he is a judge from the court in Bełchatów).
Judge Anna Gąsior-Majchrowska’s promotions started during the time of the current authorities. Years ago, she was an assistant to Judge Stanisław Tomasik, who is currently the president of the Regional Court in Piotrków Trybunalski (nominated by Minister Ziobro).
During the time of the “good change”, she was promoted to the regional court and became a deputy disciplinary commissioner. Her actions resounded among judges throughout the country, who began to report themselves to Gąsior-Majchrowska in a gesture of solidarity with the judges from Piotrków. Over 400 judges signed them. In the letters, the judges called the commissioner to reflect on her actions.
For example, judges from Kraków wrote to her that they had signed the letter to the OSCE “out of concern for ensuring that Poland has democratic, universal, equal and secret elections – without any connection to their political aspect, in order to ensure that every voter has the right to cast his vote in accordance with the idea of free elections for their selected candidate”.
They reminded her that “Before taking up the office of judge, each of us judges, including you, swore to uphold the law. We are leaving it up to you to assess whether a judge who publicly points out the threats described above to free and democratic elections for the most important office in our country remains faithful to the oath and whether such conduct can constitute a disciplinary offence.”
It cannot be ruled out that Disciplinary Commissioner Przemysław Radzik’s current activities are a response to this campaign of solidarity. Perhaps this is how Radzik is standing up “in defence” of the Piotrków commissioner, whom he mentioned in his letter to the local disciplinary commissioners. Radzik mentioned her as the only one who had initiated an investigation regarding the letter to the OSCE.
A long list of defiant judges being prosecuted
The mass prosecutions of judges for signing the letter to the OSCE constitute evidence of the strong-handed treatment of defiant judges.
After Andrzej Duda won the elections, the same Przemysław Radzik quickly initiated two wholesale disciplinary actions striking at the judges who are active in the defence of the free courts.
One strikes at the whole of the 10-person management of the Iustitia association. Radzik wants to prosecute them for publishing the post-election position of the association’s management board, which questioned the legality of the judges from the Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs of the Supreme Court, which ruled on the validity of Andrzej Duda’s election to the office of president.
Radzik is also investigating the 14-person management of the Judges’ Cooperation Forum, which is an informal judicial association that helps repressed judges. The disciplinary commissioner does not like the fact that they did not disclose their membership of this Forum in the declarations of membership of social organisations which they are required to submit from this year.
Przemysław Radzik and Ziobro’s other commissioners, namely Piotr Schab and Michał Lasota, are known for prosecuting independent judges for any reason whatsoever. We published a list of over 80 defiant judges prosecuted by them in OKO.press.
Translated by Roman Wojtasz. The text was published at Rule of Law in Poland. In the picture: the Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro.