Justice minister declares constitutional court order to suspend removal of top prosecutor “defective”

Poland’s justice minister, Adam Bodnar, has accused the country’s constitutional court of issuing a “defective” order seeking to halt his move to replace a top prosecutor.

The development marks a further intensification of the clash between the new government – which had pledged to restore the rule of law after eight years of Law and Justice (PiS) rule – and PiS-linked institutions and officials that are resisting such efforts.

„Please stop trying to violate the law,” President @AndrzejDuda asked PM @donaldtusk at a meeting today amid growing tensions.

Tusk said that his government would continue its efforts to „restore the legal order, whether someone likes it or not” https://t.co/0UyOCRaxvF

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 15, 2024

On Friday, Bodnar – who as well as being justice minister is also public prosecutor general – declared that the man serving as national prosecutor, Dariusz Barski, had been illegitimately appointed under PiS. Prime Minister Donald Tusk then appointed a new acting national prosecutor.

That prompted criticism from PiS, PiS-allied President Andrzej Duda, as well as many senior prosecutors, one of whom announced a blockade of the national prosecutor’s office.

On Monday, the Constitutional Tribunal (TK), a body widely seen as being under PiS influence, issued an order that Bodnar’s and Tusk’s actions regarding the national prosecutor be suspended pending a full TK ruling on the issue.

The Constitutional Tribunal has issued an order suspending the government’s decision to declare invalid the previous appointment of a national prosecutor and to name a replacement

The decision was made pending a final ruling on the dispute by the tribunal https://t.co/pJoBgQcrlL

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 15, 2024

However, on Friday evening, Bodnar told broadcaster TVN that the TK’s order was “defective”. He provided three justifications for his view.

First, he noted that complaints can only be made to the TK once other legal remedies are exhausted. In this case, Barski went straight to the TK instead of going to a labour court first.

Second, Bodnar pointed out that the TK judge who issued the order, Krystyna Pawłowicz, should not have been allowed to rule on the issue due to a conflict of interest. She served as a PiS MP from 2011 to 2019 and during that time had voted in favour of legislation that was relevant to the case.

Finally, the justice minister argued there was a further conflict of interest because Pawłowicz and Barski had both stood as PiS parliamentary candidates in the 2011 elections.

Minister sprawiedliwości @Adbodnar w sprawie Dariusza Barskiego: Zabezpieczenie wydane przez Trybunał Konstytucyjny jest wadliwe z trzech powodów.

Zobacz całą rozmowę @faktypofaktach w TVN24 GO:https://t.co/8GxZpW6945
Czytaj też:https://t.co/RKEFek0EPz pic.twitter.com/euR1jOUSza

— tvn24 (@tvn24) January 16, 2024

Bodnar said that what had in fact happened was that, “as is usually the case in Poland recently, the Constitutional Tribunal came to the rescue” of PiS by issuing a ruling to help its political cause.

“I expected that such actions would take place and that various attempts would be made to block this decision [to remove Barski] because this decision is very delicate and sensitive for PiS,” he continued.

However, Bodnar said that he was completely confident in his decision to remove Barski, which was based on legal opinions showing that Barski had been illegitimately appointed and should in fact be regarded as being in retirement.

“I absolutely do not intend to withdraw because I believe that I am absolutely right,” said Bodnar. “[Barski] was reinstated into active prosecutorial service on the basis of a provision that…had not been in force for many years.”

The constitutional court has issued a ruling effectively preventing Poland’s new government from putting the central bank governor – seen as an ally of the former ruling party – on trial.

It raised the size of the parliamentary majority required to do so https://t.co/ae2wNTjALC

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 12, 2024

Meanwhile, on Monday, Duda also filed a request to the TK asking it to resolve the dispute over Barski. The president has argued that the government’s actions to remove him were unlawful.

The conflict adds to a growing number of disputes between the new government on one side, and PiS and its allies on the other.

Those include challenges to the government’s actions aimed to take control of public broadcasters from PiS appointees and last week’s enforcement by the police of a warrant to detain two former PiS government ministers so that they could begin serving prison sentences.

A chamber of the Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a convicted MP against the loss of his parliamentary mandate.

Another chamber of the same court last week made the opposite ruling on the same case, but today’s ruling declared that chamber unlawful https://t.co/EXxiQTRlcq

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 10, 2024

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: Ministerstwo Sprawiedliwości (under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 PL)

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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