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Ruling party aims to reduce constitutional court lineup

Marcin Bednarski/PAP

Law and Justice (PiS), the dominant party in Poland’s ruling coalition, has filed a bill on reducing the size of a full composition of the constitutional tribunal from 11 to nine judges.

The move has been seen as an attempt to unlock a law reforming the Polish Supreme Court that could give Poland access to an EU multi-billion euro pandemic recovery fund.

The law, which was referred to the tribunal by President Andrzej Duda and aims to meet one of the “milestones” set by the European Commission for Poland to get the money, has been stalled by a dispute within the tribunal over just when the term in office of its head, Julia Przylebska, ends.

In January six judges called on her to resign, arguing that her term in office expired at the end of last year. But Przylebska, who has the backing of key figures in PiS, rejects this, claiming that she can remain in office till the end of 2024.

So far Przylebska has rebuffed attempts to set wheels in motion for her replacement but with six judges refusing to recognise her legitimacy the court cannot get the required number of judges for a sitting.

According to the authors of the new constitutional court bill, by reducing the number of judges required for a sitting from 11 to nine it will be easier to assemble the required quorum to hear a case.

The European Commission froze Poland out of the pandemic-recovery funding on rule-of-law grounds, especially contesting a disciplinary body for judges installed in the Supreme Court. According to the EC, the disciplinary body could restrict the independence of judges.

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