Poland's Top Supreme Court Judge Defies Controversial Retirement Law

Małgorzata Gersdorf

Małgorzata Gersdorf

Anti-government protesters rallied Wednesday in front of Poland's Supreme Court in Warsaw. An adviser to President Andrzej Duda also insisted that Gersdorf has no choice but to step down.

The authorities have introduced laws which allow over half of all judges of the Supreme Court to be removed and exchanged and which allow for removal of the President of the Supreme Court before her term of office expires.

Opponents of Poland's judicial reforms protest outside the Supreme Court building on Wednesday.

"I do not engage in politics".

Gersdorf, who had condemned the PiS's alleged campaign to politicise the judiciary and media, had said that under Poland's constitution she should remain in her post until 2020. "We can speak of a crisis of the rule of law in Poland, of a lack of respect for the constitution".

The new law could have sweeping consequences for the Supreme Court, potentially impacting almost half its judges in what critics call a purge, as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reported: "The government claims the forced retirements are aimed at fighting corruption and improving judicial efficiency". Sixteen judges have made requests.

Poland's government has pushed ahead with the new rules despite the European Union launching legal action on Monday.

By Tuesday evening, the government had shown no signs of changing course.

Leader of the Polish Supreme Court Malgorzata Gersdorf in Warsaw.

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party escalated the confrontation as it forcing a third of Supreme Court judges to retire on Wednesday.

The nationalist ruling party argues its legal overhaul is needed to shake up a judicial system it says it steeped in communist-era thinking and power structures.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, speaking at the European Parliament on Wednesday, defended the new laws and expanded on the criticism of the bloc.

The chief justice of Poland małgorzata Gersdorf demonstration came to work this morning after, according to the enforceable judicial reform, with the onset of the day became a pensioner.

"Poland is a European country and it is imperative that its judges are completely independent - this is fundamental to guaranteeing citizens' rights", Draginja Nadazdin, director of Amnesty International's Poland bureau told AFP.

JANEK SKARZYNSKI via Getty Images European Union officials said they might be forced to bring the matter before the European Court of Justice. Democracy icon Lech Walesa said he would join the protesters planning to defend her at the Supreme Court building. According to the Supreme Court, 16 of them did so. "I only fill in if she is absent", Iwulski said, appearing to contradict the presidential aide.

On Monday, the European Union launched legal action against Poland relating to the law, the latest salvo in a bitter battle over judicial changes critics have decried as unconstitutional. Poland has a month to respond.

Here is a timeline of the PiS reforms and the reactions they have drawn from the EU.

"If there is a systemic threat to the rule of law, we can not simply turn a blind eye".

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