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On Thursday morning, Igor Tuleya appeared in Warsaw's district court, where he was to conduct a criminal case at 10 am. He addressed the participants in the proceedings in extraordinary circumstances - instead of wearing a judge’s gown, he was in a suit and spoke in the corridor, instead of the courtroom.
- I apologize for speaking in the court corridor, but I am no longer able to enter the Chamber,' he said. - I would like to thank all the participants of the trial and say that unfortunately, we cannot proceed due to the order signed by the President of the court’s department. Today, the case has been taken off the agenda - he added.
The hearing was cancelled after last Wednesday’s decision by the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, which stripped Tuleya of his immunity. The public prosecutor's office intends to bring charges against the judge for his actions in the courtroom. In 2017, Tuleya allowed the media to record the justification of his verdict concerning irregularities in the parliamentary vote. According to the prosecutor's office, Tuleya thereby abused his powers and disclosed the secret of the investigation. These crimes are punishable by up to three and up to two years in prison respectively.
In addition, Tuleya has been suspended from his professional activities/office, and his salary has been reduced by 25%.
Tuleya asks the EU Court of Justice: Am I still a judge?
When Tuleya entered the court this morning, he was accompanied by dozens of judges with the slogans saying ‘we stand with Tuleya'. Yesterday, in Cracow judges stood in front of the Distrtict Court with a transparent saying "Igor Tuleya - you will never walk alone“.
Tuleya himself does not recognize the decision of the Disciplinary Chamber as valid, arguing that members of the Chamber are not politically neutral. They have been appointed by the President who followed the recommendation of the National Council of the Judiciary, whose appointees are almost exclusively political loyalists of the ruling camp. According to the Supreme Court verdict from last December, the Disciplinary Chamber is not an independent court in the meaning of the EU treaties, and the Court of Justice of the EU suspended the Chamber in April as an interim measure pending its final ruling.
Therefore, Tuleya will continue to come to work, but in practice probably he will not be able to make legally binding judgements, because proceedings will be taken off his hands. However, on the day of the Chamber’s verdict, the judge still managed to hand down his last ruling. He suspended the case at hand pending the preliminary ruling from the CJEU that he requested.
- My decision will be delivered to the concerned parties, provided that the office fulfils the ordinance of yesterday's. The request for a preliminary ruling should be added to the case file. It has already been sent to the Court of Justice of the EU by e-mail yesterday,' said Tuleya.
Tuleya asked the CJEU how his dismissal should be interpreted according to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is supposed to guarantee the right to a fair trial. - Am I a judge or not, if I have been dismissed from judging by a non-judicial body? Is this to be seen as an interference into the independence of the judiciary? Is this compatible with the EU legal order? - the judge demands.
In another question to the EU Court of Justice, Tuleya asked about the decision of the EU Court in April, which suspended the activity of the Disciplinary Chamber. The Chamber’s judges interpreted it narrowly: they just stopped having the disciplinary hearings of the judges, but they still settled the immunity cases. - The question concerns the status of the so-called Disciplinary Chamber. If it could not decide on disciplinary cases, could it decide on much more serious cases - to dismiss a judge from his work? - asked Tuleya.
"Tuleya does not want to recognise the ruling of the Disciplinary Chamber. And Commissioner Vera Jourová said that the suspension of the Disciplinary Chamber does not apply to cases such as the deprivation of immunity. It’s anarchy all over", commented the deputy Minister of Justice Michał Wójcik.
"Europe allowed the rule of law to be dismantled in Poland"
The decision to suspend the Chamber was taken at the request of the European Commission, which believes that the Chamber is incapable of acting independently - But it is true, this does not apply to the cases of immunity loss,' said Vera Jourová, the European Commission Vice-President in October. She did not want to speculate what steps the Commission will take after Tuleya's immunity loss.
- I appeal to Europe. You have not protected the independence of the courts in Poland. You have not protected the independence of Polish judges. You have allowed the rule of law to be dismantled in Poland,' Tuleya said yesterday to Reuters Agency. The judge, who is committed to defending the independence of the judiciary in Poland, believes that the EU institutions are not doing enough.
- Just like in 1939, when Europe did not want to die for Gdańsk, now it does not want to die for the Polish rule of law. Especially since it is not clear whether we ourselves want this rule of law,' he said to „Wyborcza“.
"It is high time to act decisively. - Jose Igreja Matos, President of the European Association of Judges, stated on Thursday.
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