“This is no longer just an act of judicial harassment. It's stripping the Supreme Court of its residual authority. Adam Tomczyński proceeds with a motion to revoke the judicial immunity of Beata Morawiec under the cover of night, without the attendance of even a single person of public trust, while the state broadcaster, TVP, runs a smear campaign against her” – Judge Dorota Zabłudowska, a member of the association of judges “Iustitia”, Tweeted before 8:00 pm on Monday.
By that time, the session during which the Disciplinary Chamber was supposed to decide whether to waive the judge’s immunity was about nine hours in. The government-controlled broadcaster, TVP, had just released another video meant to discredit Ms. Morawiec. –According to the witness statements that we were able to obtain, the judge is guilty of serious misconduct- said the reporter, presenting the audience with leaked materials from the prosecutorial investigation.
The decision to revoke the immunity of judge Morawiec has been announced shortly after 9:00 pm by judge Adam Tomczński- a member of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court nominated by the president in a politicized process. – Revoking judicial immunity makes one thing clear: there’s a reasonable suspicion of a crime– he said, adding that the decision was based on the evidence provided by the prosecutor’s office.
-The resolution in Ms. Morawiec’s case could not have been more strict. Adam Tomczyński allowed the judge to be held responsible for all the acts the prosecutor's office accused her of, suspended her from the function of a judge, and reduced her salary by 50%. He did not even consider any of our defensive motions- says one Ms. Morawiec’s defense attorneys, Judge Maciej Czajka.
Tomczyński became known as an avid supporter of the judicial "reforms" initiated by the Law and Justice party. Before he joined the Supreme Court, he occasionally appeared as a pundit in the pro-government media. Later, already as a judge, he encouraged people to vote for the Law and Justice party on Twitter. On Monday, he followed the request of the public prosecutor’s office (controlled by the Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Ziobro) to start criminal proceedings against the government-critical judge.
Judge Czajka noticed that after a ten-hour-long session, Tomczyński only needed thirty minutes to prepare and announce the ruling. – We will file a complaint against this ruling- he announced.
The decision is not legally binding. Ms. Morawiec has now the right to appeal to a three-member Disciplinary Board. The entire Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, however, has been staffed with the help of a politicized National Council of the Judiciary, including, among others, the former prosecutors working for Zbigniew Ziobro and lawyers associated with the Law and Justice party. They’ve been given the exclusive right to rule in cases concerning judicial immunity.
In January, the three chambers of the Supreme Court ruled that “the Disciplinary Chamber is not a court and cannot continue to act as one”. Yet, even so, the Disciplinary Chamber still continues to rule on cases concerning judicial immunity and the prosecutor’s office respects its decisions.
"The Constitution states that only a court has the right to decide to prosecute a judge. An institution that is not a court may not do so. All those who want to conduct criminal proceedings must be aware of this" - Prof. Włodzimierz Wróbel, a judge of the Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court, wrote about the Disciplinary Chamber.
Charges pressed against judge Morawiec
"In a country where a non-court decides whether to waive a judge’s immunity, none of us can feel safe"- Sylwia Gregorczyk-Abram, an advocate from the Free Courts Initiative, Tweeted on Monday.
It’s not the first time the Disciplinary Chamber suspends a government-critical judge for defending the rule of law. Paweł Juszczyszyn, a judge from Olsztyn, has been suspended from exercising his professional duties indefinitely. But the Chamber’s Monday ruling goes even a step further- the decision to revoke the immunity of a judge and begin criminal proceedings against her is without a precedent.
-In Poland, the state apparatus is used to blatantly attack judges who have had the courage to criticize the government. Enabling it by subjecting the public prosecutor’s office and a Disciplinary Chamber to political control is a technology of governance known to be adopted by totalitarian regimes. Today, it’s judge Morawiec. Tomorrow, it could be any of us – says Marcin Matczak, a constitutional law expert, and a professor at the University of Warsaw.
Beata Morawiec is a judge of the District Court in Kraków and the chair of the association of judges “Themis”. The organization has a long record of defending judiciary independence in Poland. Ms. Morawiec herself has also been successful in taking legal action against Zbigniew Ziobro. She sued the Minister of Justice for defamation and won the case in a court of the first instance. The court ruled that Ziobro needs to apologize. The Minister appealed against the judgment and the public prosecutor’s office overseen by him announced it will press corruption charges against judge Morawiec.
Ms. Morawiec’s case is overseen by the Department of Internal Affairs of the National Prosecutor's Office - a special unit established in 2016 to prove that the Polish justice system has been compromised by pathologies and corrupt arrangements. Investigators claim that Ms. Morawiec has allegedly accepted a cell phone from a defendant in exchange for a favorable ruling. She is also said to have taken PLN 5,000 for a judicial analysis she never delivered.
- Misappropriation of public funds, acting to the detriment of the public interest with the purpose of financial gain, abuse of power, and the acceptance of items of value. These acts are punishable by up to ten years in prison – listed the Public Prosecutor's Office.
When the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) agents entered her house with a search warrant in September, Ms. Morawiec gave them the judicial analysis. An expert witness confirmed that she prepared the analysis and passed on his expertise to the Disciplinary Chamber. Ms. Morawiec denies the allegations of bribery as “nonsense”. - I have never committed a crime in my entire life. Those who say I did, are lying. Slander can be a very effective weapon in the hands of people who want to destroy others- she said.
- Witness testimonies indicate that Morawiec used her position and influence in the Polish courts for criminal purposes - announced the newscast on the state-controlled television channel TVP. Earlier, the pro-government news service “Wpolityce.pl” broke a story about the planned charges against Morawiec even before the prosecutor’s office mentioned them.
- The evidence gathered during the investigation has proved to be inaccurate and contradictory. We also found the testimonies to be unreliable- said judge Anna Korwin-Piotrowska, one of Ms. Morawiec’s defense attorneys. - If such material justifies waiving the judge's immunity, it can be concluded that there is no judicial immunity in Poland whatsoever- she added.
Themis: The government’s preparing the ground for further judicial „reforms”
- It is about destroying one of the leading judges who defend the rule of law, and about turning the public against the judiciary community. All this is supposed to prepare the ground for further pseudo-reforms of the justice system - said the spokesperson of “Themis”, judge Dariusz Mazur, interviewed in front of the Supreme Court on Monday.
„We call on the judges, their attorneys, and all the citizens. Let us show our solidarity with judge Beata Morawiec. Anyone can be subjected to slander, anyone whom the ruling camp considers inconvenient can be accused. Today, it’s Beata Morawiec. Tomorrow, it might be you" - called the association. When the Disciplinary Chamber started the session, activists holding a banner that said "Solidarity with Morawiec" were picketing outside the Supreme Court building. They were accompanied by judges and representatives of other legal professions.
- Beata Morawiec had the courage to stand up in defense of independent courts, and now she is being accused on the basis of questionable evidence provided by the Public Prosecutor's Office. We do not believe these charges- said judge Piotr Gąciarek, a member of “Iustitia”. - I am convinced of the judge's innocence. I have no doubt that this a politically-motivated persecution - added judge Igor Tuleya. The Prosecutor's Office threatened to revoke his immunity as well.
“We strongly condemn the actions taken against Beata Morawiec, which are aimed at discrediting her, both professionally and privately, and preventing her from participating in public life”. – reads a statement signed by 11 organizations associated with the Justice Defence Committee, including the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Free Courts initiative.
On Monday, judges all around the country manifested their solidarity with Ms. Morawiec. Standing outside their courts, they were holding signs with slogans such as: “Solidarity with Beata Morawiec” or “Today, they came for judges. Tomorrow, they’ll come for you”.
Defense attorneys: It’s an example of inquisitorial proceedings
Ms. Morawiec didn’t appear in front of the Disciplinary Chamber on Monday. – It is due to my deep conviction that the authority in charge of the case does not meet the requirements of a court as defined by the Polish and European law - she said.
During the first hours of the in-camera session, defense attorneys demanded that the meeting be public and that the judge who examined the case be chosen by drawing lots. Later, they requested to exclude Mr. Tomczyński, but another judge of the Disciplinary Chamber – a former prosecutor Adam Roch - dismissed their request.
- What we wanted to achieve with the motions we’ve filed was to ensure that the proceedings are public and that the trial is fair and impartial. All of them were dismissed- said judge Maciej Czajka. - Some of our defensive motions were not even read. Mr. Tomczyński did not consider it appropriate to take them into account and analyze the arguments. These are inquisitorial proceedings - commented the attorney Radosław Baszuk.
The Polish Commissioner for Human Rights, Adam Bodnar, believes that Judge Beata Morawiec should now file a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights, together with an application for an interim measure that would temporarily postpone further proceedings in her case.
„Although the ECtHR has so far not applied interim measures in cases involving judges, it may be high time to change the practice. It must be shown that the decision of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court leads to “the risk of a serious and irreparable violation of one of the main rights guaranteed under the Convention”. If the Strasbourg Court wants to seriously tackle the challenges of the rule of law (and its own jurisprudence), then it should do so in this particular case” – Mr. Bodnar wrote on his Facebook profile.
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