The European Court of Justice (ECJ) Tuesday ruled that new Polish regulations regarding the appointment of Supreme Court judges could violate European law, effectively striking down efforts to exert political influence over the judiciary in that country.
The legislation in question regulates Poland’s strengthened political influence over a top judicial body, the National Council of the Judiciary, and the body's procedure of appointments to the Supreme Court. It also curbed the right to appeal the council's decisions, effectively leaving that body unchecked with its authority.
In his ruling, ECJ Judge Marko Ilesic said the new regulations “are capable of giving legitimate doubts” in the minds of subjects of the law as to the neutrality of judges appointed by the president of Poland and whether they are influenced by politics.
The ruling obliges Poland's right-wing government to discontinue the regulations and observe the principles of judicial independence and the right to judicial protection. It also means Poland's Supreme Administrative Court can now review appeals by the five judges, who are not government loyalists. In the process, it is likely to rule that the entire appointment procedure was flawed and ineffective.
The EU has been strongly critical of Poland's conservative government for the changes it has introduced to the judiciary since it won power in 2015, saying they undermine the country's rule of law.