Retiring members of Poland's illegal Disciplinary Chamber, all aged between 46 and 57, will be generously rewarded. Having worked 3,5 years, for their party loyalty, they will receive a pension 10 times greater than the average citizen... but that's not all.
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Most members of the recently abolished Disciplinary Chamber for judges chose not to be transferred to other positions within the Supreme Court. Rather, six of the eleven PiS-appointed judges have opted for lucrative retirement, or, as critical commentators have put it, "a freeloader status" (a term first used by former ID member Jan Majchrowski) or "a life-long all-inclusive vacation".

Jarosław Duś, Jacek Wygoda, Paweł Zubert, Konrad Wytrykowski, Piotr Niedzielak and Adam Tomczyński are the lucky ones. Five other members of the Disciplinary Chamber who had accepted the offer from the Supreme Court’s First President Małgorzata Manowska will remain at the Supreme Court. Three former prosecutors associated with the Prosecutor General and Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro - Małgorzata Bednarek, Adam Roch, and Ryszard Witkowski - have been transferred to the court’s Criminal Chamber. Jarosław Sobutka is to adjudicate in the Labor and Social Insurance Chamber, and former Disciplinary Chamber chairman Tomasz Przesławski will be transferred to the Control and Public Affairs Chamber.

The Disciplinary Chamber was one of the key political instruments used by the ruling Law and Justice party to harass independent lawyers, especially judges, by lifting their immunities, removing them from adjudication, or reducing their salaries. According to the rulings of international tribunals, because its members were not impartial, the Chamber itself was not an impartial and independent court, and thus did not guarantee the right to a fair trial.

But thanks to a bill recently passed by the ruling camp, retiring members of the illegal Chamber will be generously rewarded. They will receive emoluments of nearly PLN 23,000 a month (100% of their salary until age 65, and 75% after reaching that age). On top of that, they will be able to count on high severance pay (six months' salary, or about PLN 130,000). Once they have turned 65, they will be entitled to a one-time severance payment. For comparison: according to data from March 2022, the average pension in Poland was PLN 2545 (approximately $550).

Wyborcza asked the Supreme Court exactly how much it will cost to dissolve the illegal Disciplinary Chamber.

"Our press team is currently not in the possession of data on the costs of liquidating the Disciplinary Chamber" - Maciej Brzózka of the Supreme Court press office responded.

At least PLN 1.6 million a year... and taxpayers will foot the bill

His response also included information on the offers Małgorzata Manowska made to former members of the dissolved Disciplinary Chamber. Jarosław Duś, Jacek Wygoda, Paweł Zubert, Konrad Wytrykowski, and Piotr Niedzielak were offered to work in the Criminal Chamber. Adam Tomczyński was suggested to take up a post on the Labor and Social Security Chamber. All of them chose early retirement, although they are only between 46 and 57 years old. Three of the "golden pensioners", Duś, Wytrykowski, and Zubert, have about 18 years left until real retirement. The others - Wygoda, Niedzielak, and Tomczyński - have seven and eight years respectively.

According to an analysis prepared by Staniław Zakroczymski, an expert at the Strategies 2050 Institute, the rest of the young retirees - after having worked a maximum of 3.5 years in the Chamber - will cost the Polish taxpayer at least PLN 1.6 million a year.

Zakroczymski's calculations show that the total cost of paying benefits to the lucky loyalists will be around PLN 23 million. The calculation is rather "moderate," meaning it is most likely understated, as it does not take into account the valorization of benefits due to the increase in average salaries.

The penalty clock keeps ticking

Poland still has to pay a penalty for failing to implement the CJEU's rulings (relating to, among other things, the activities of the Disciplinary Chamber). Currently, the penalty amounts to over PLN 1.3 billion.

"Those guilty of bringing about such a situation should be held accountable, and changing this legal state and depriving former members of the illegal Chamber of their unauthorized benefits should be one of the priorities of the future government" – Mr. Zakroczymski states.

Many lawyers believe that former members of the Disciplinary Chamber should return their salaries in the future. The opposition has already called for ID members to return - as undue benefits - the difference between their salaries in the Chamber and those from their previously held positions.

"Retirement is due to judges who have performed their duties honestly and in accordance with the rule of law, not to people who have exposed Poland to loss of reputation in the world and financial penalties..." - assessed Dr. Ryszard Balicki, a constitutional law expert from the University of Wrocław.

"These people were elected illegally, which means that they cannot enjoy the protection of vested rights" -added Dr. Szymon Tarapata, an attorney and criminal law expert from the Jagiellonian University.

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