In Poland, Controversial Legislation Restricting Judiciary Is Signed Into Law


WARSAW — President Andrzej Duda of Poland signed into law on Tuesday much-criticized legislation that gives politicians the power to fine and fire judges whose actions and decisions they consider harmful.

The legislation has drawn condemnation from the European Union and international human rights organizations as well as from Poland’s opposition and some of its judges. They say it violates the basic democratic values of judicial independence and the system of checks and balances and puts judges under political control.

The legislation bars judges from questioning judicial appointments made by the president and forbids them from engaging in political activity. The ruling Law and Justice party has been making reforms to the judiciary since winning power in 2015.

Opposition parties decried the legislation, which takes effect in a matter of days, which they call the “muzzle law.”

“This is a very sad day for Poland: The president has sealed an attack on the independent justice system,” said Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, who is the opposition’s candidate in the presidential election expected in May.

“Poland is starting on its way of leaving the E.U.’s legal system,” she added.

President Emmanuel Macron of France, who was on a visit to Poland on Tuesday, has spoken out against changes that Poland’s right-wing ruling party is making to the judiciary.

Also Tuesday, the new Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled to suspend Judge Pawel Juszczyszyn, who has raised questions about some recent politicized judicial appointments, and stripped him of 40 percent of his earnings, as a fine. The legality of the chamber itself has been questioned because it was appointed by a politicized body.

Some European legal scholars warn that the developments in Poland threaten the entire European Union legal system. National courts in the bloc’s member countries recognize the decisions of courts in the other nations on everything from European arrest warrants to child custody issues.

The ruling Law and Justice party says its goal with the law is to prevent “anarchy” among judges and that it has the right to reorganize Poland’s justice system.


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