The suspension of judge Paweł Juszczyszyn triggered protests, involving his fellow judges, lawyers and artists in numerous Polish cities on Sunday.
The protests took place in Warsaw, Kraków, Poznań, Gdańsk, Łódź, Lublin, Katowice, Częstochowa, Bydgoszcz, Wrocław and Szczecin. Some of the demonstrators carried EU flags and placards with slogans supporting the independence of courts.
The judge, Paweł Juszczyszyn, was suspended when, following an earlier EU Court of Justice ruling, he demanded insight into support lists for candidates to the Polish Judiciary Council (KRS).
The latest reforms mean that KRS members are appointed by MPs and not, as before, by judges. The new appointment regulations have raised doubts as to the council’s independence from political pressure. The ruling PiS holds a majority in the Lower House.
Mr Juszczyszyn, who took part in the Warsaw demonstration, told protesters that judges could not bow to political demands. “I believe law and honesty will ultimately win. I appeal to judges, don’t let yourselves be intimidated, be independent, be brave,” Juszczyszyn said on the steps of the Justice Ministry building.
The government maintain that the judicial reforms are necessary to raise the efficiency of courts and rid the justice system of the remnants of the communist era.
Among the supporters of the protests was Nobel-winning author Olga Tokarczuk and the Civic Platform (PO) party’s possible presidential candidate Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska.
Warsaw police have not revealed the number of protesters.
According to Poland’s private broadcaster Polsat, the protests were organised by the Association of Polish Judges “Iustitia”.
The judiciary reforms have caused friction between the EU and the PiS government. The European Commission have stated that the reforms infringe on judicial independence.
However, in the recent case of the Polish Supreme Court’s (SN) Disciplinary Chamber, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) took a step back in late November, ruling that it is the SN’s responsibility to examine the independence of the new Disciplinary Chamber to determine whether it can hear disputes regarding judges.