Europe & UK

October 23, 2018

Poland should suspend judicial reform of lowering retirement age of SC judges: ECJ


European-Court-of-Justice

On October 19, the European Court of Justice (ECJ)—the supreme court of the European Union in matters of European Union law—ordered Poland to immediately suspend the application of the provisions of national legislation relating to the lowering of the retirement age for Supreme Court judges and forcing them into early retirement.

While a former hearing with the Court of Justice is already scheduled, the court demanded that the suspension be applied with "retroactive effect" to Supreme Court judges already in retirement.

Earlier, in April, Poland had lowered the retirement age of SC judges from 70 to 65. The law forced justices who reached 65 by July 3, 2018 to retire on July 4, unless granted permission by the president of the country. Thereafter, in September, the European Commission dragged Poland to court over this judicial reform. According to the Commission, the age cap violated the rule of law.

Notably, this reform would force 27 out of 72 Supreme Court members to retire, including its chief.

The court may only grant interim relief if “(i) it is established that such an order is justified, prima facie, in fact and in law… and (ii) the order is urgent in so far as, to avoid serious and irreparable damage to the interests of the EU.” The court may also engage in a balancing test of the interests of both parties.

Notably, Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, increased the number of SC judges from 93 to 120, created 44 vacancies in the court, and appointed 27 new judges. As per the Court of Justice, this “entails a profound and immediate change in the composition of the Supreme Court, which is, moreover, likely to be extended by new appointments,” meeting the urgency requirement.

The final verdict on the reform is yet to be pronounced. In case the ECJ finds that Poland breached EU law, it could impose fines on the country.

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