The President suspended a judge because he did not recognise the rulings of the neo-judges. This is the first such case since the judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal.
“Gazeta Wyborcza”, Jarosław Sidorowicz, 23 October 2021
Link to original publication in Polish:
Regional Court in Kraków (Photo Jakub Włodek / Agencja Gazeta)
The authorities of the Kraków court continue to repress judges who refuse to recognise decisions made by neo-judges. The president of the Regional Court in Kraków suspended Judge Maciej Ferek for a month for not recognising decisions issued by neo-judges. “This is retaliation,” Judge Ferek briefly tells “Wyborcza”.
The decision to suspend Judge Maciej Ferek, who rules in the civil division of the regional court, was made on Friday by Zbigniew Ziobro’s personal appointee as president of the regional court, Dagmara Pawełczyk-Woicka. And she claims that this is required by “the gravity of the court and the good of the administration of justice”.
After the CT judgement. The judges do not recognise the rulings of the neo-judges.
Two rulings issued several days apart by Judge Maciej Ferekconstituted the pretext. In both, he refused to recognise two decisions issued by the benches containing neo-judges.
“Wyborcza” wrote about the first one a week ago. Judge Maciej Ferek considered an appeal filed by one of the litigants against a decision of a first instance court in a civil case. Judge Ferek ruled that the challenged ruling issued by the first instance court could not be regarded as a ruling issued by an independent and impartial court. Why? Because of the membership of the bench. The ruling was issued by a neo-judge appointed to his position with the participation of the politicised National Council of the Judiciary. She was appointed regional court judge in February 2021.
According to Judge Maciej Ferek, in this situation, the appointment of this judge was ineffective and “was made in gross breach of Article 179 of the Constitution”. He referred to a recent CJEU judgment of 6 October 2021, which ruled that a national court should declare a decision made with a person appointed as a judge in gross breach of the fundamental norms null and void. For similar reasons, hedismissed the application to grant an enforceability clause to the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Kraków on Thursday (21/10), because a neo-judge was also a member of its bench.
He encountered repression the very next day. On Friday, President Pawełczyk-Woicka issued an order suspending Judge Maciej Ferek for a month. She did not like not only the judge’s decision, but also the fact that he had assessed the status of other judges, and even the fact that the anonymised content of one of these judgments ended up on the “Krakow judges” facebook page. Interestingly, the order mentions another decision by Judge Ferek, from July of this year, in which he returned a case for a re-draw of the bench without recognising the ruling made because a judge appointed with the involvement of the politicized National Council of the Judiciary had also participated in issuing it. “This means that the court authorities had already then started to monitor my decisions,” Judge Maciej Ferek tells “Wyborcza”.
The Kraków court. Files taken away in the judge’s absence
Equally shocking are the circumstances in which the president of the regional court suspended Judge Maciej Ferek. As he tells “Wyborcza”, he issued the above decision dismissing the application for an enforceability clause, among others, to the judgment of the Court of Appeal on Thursday at noon.
“I left the files of this case on my desk in my office, because before returning the files to the secretariat, I was supposed to write a justification to this decision ex officio,” Judge Maciej Ferek told “Wyborcza”. “I came to work on Friday and, to my surprise, I saw that the files had disappeared from my desk. I saw an e-mail from the head of the secretariat asking me to contact her. I found out from her that the file had been taken from my office in my absence to the order of the president of the court!” says Judge Ferek. And he has no doubts:
“This is snatching files from a judge in the course of proceedings, which is an unprecedented and unacceptable situation to date. It is a violation of judicial independence.”
The court president’s envoys came to his office in the afternoon and took away all the files on the cases over which he was presiding, as well as the justification of the decision, which had already been drawn up, without the files.
As he says, the situation when his file was taken away after the ruling on the case of the neo-judges is not the first time. “Previously, files related to the latter ruling were taken on the order of the deputy president of the regional court and documents were photocopied from them. When I asked in writing last week on what legal basis this was done, I received no answer. It is not the case that anyone, even the president of the court, can take a case file, look into it and make photocopies or take photographs of it. The files contain data of individuals, companies, and often very sensitive data, e.g. in cases concerning gender determination,” emphasises Judge Maciej Ferek.
The repressions of the Kraków judges continue
Maciej Ferek is the first judge suspended for failing to recognise rulings made by neo-judges after the ruling of Julia Przyłębska’s Constitutional Tribunal that was supposed to prevent an examination of whether the ‘good change’ judges (appointed with the help of the politicised NCJ) meet EU standards of independence.
“My suspension is repression for my application of the law. I have not committed any crime, I am not fighting against anyone, I am just applying the law, upholding the rule of law,”comments Judge Maciej Ferek on President Pawełczyk-Woicka’s decision. “All the files of the cases I handled were taken away from me, I cannot work now, and the staffing situation and workload in Civil Division I are tragic. This is repression intended to strike at me, but also to intimidate the judicial community. It didn’t intimidate me, and I’m sure it didn’t intimidate the other judges either!” he adds.
This is not the end of the repressions against Kraków’s judges. The president of the court has just sent Judge Wojciech Maczuga, who had ruled in the appeal division of the regional court until now, to a first-instance division. The reason for this was his statement that he would demand that the bench be redrawn if he found himself in it together with a judge appointed with the participation of the politicised NCJ.
Earlier, similar treatment was applied to Judges Beata Morawiec and Katarzyna Wierzbicka, who were also transferred on disciplinary grounds from the appellate division of the Kraków regional court to the first-instance division because they had declared that they would not appear in benches with neo-judges. In turn, Judge Maciej Czajka was transferred for the same reason from the criminal division of the Kraków regional court, where he had ruled for many years, to the civil division.
Photo Adrianna Bochenek / Agencja Gazeta
“A judge’s decisions can only be judged by the court, not by Zbigniew Ziobro’s appointee. Further harassment will only inspire us to fight even harder to uphold the rule of law. We will not give in, it will not break us,” comments Judge Waldemar Żurek, one of the main critics of the changes being forced on the judiciary by the Law and Justice party.