Polish Supreme Court overturns decision to end parliamentary mandate of convicted PiS MP

A chamber of the Supreme Court has overturned a decision to end the parliamentary mandate of an MP who served as a deputy minister from the former Law and Justice (PiS) government and was last month given a prison sentence for abuse of power.

However, confusion surrounds the decision as it was made by a chamber of the Supreme Court created by the PiS government that has been found to be illegitimate by previous court rulings.

Wolta SN ws. skazanego Wąsika. Nielegalna Izba Kontroli uznała, że nadal jest posłem. Co dalej?@M_Jaloszewski #Wąsik #Kamiński #Hołownia #SN #mandaty #okopresshttps://t.co/JLYhNWKNkM pic.twitter.com/X0Zw1c3ZdW

— OKO.press (@oko_press) January 4, 2024

The PiS MP in question, Maciej Wąsik, was last month handed a two-year prison sentence and a five-year ban from holding public office. The same sentence was given to Mariusz Kamiński, who served as interior minister in the PiS government until last year, with Wąsik as his deputy.

The following day, Szymon Hołownia, the speaker of the Sejm, the lower house of parliament in which they sit, issued decisions confirming that the pair’s parliamentary mandates had expired as a result of their convictions.

However, Kamiński and Wąsik both appealed against Hołownia’s decision to the Supreme Court. Today, the court’s extraordinary review and public affairs chamber accepted Wąsik’s appeal and annulled Hołownia’s decision. Kamiński’s appeal is still pending, with a hearing scheduled for 10 January.

Wąsik declared on X that he was pleased with the decision and hoped that his colleague would receive an identical one.

Cieszę sie z decyzji Sądu Najwyższego w mojej sprawie .
Ale czekam jeszcze na identyczną w sprawie Mariusza Kamińskiego.
Dziękuję wszystkim za wsparcie✌️✌️✌️

— Maciej Wąsik 🇵🇱 (@WasikMaciej) January 4, 2024

But doubt has been cast on the Wąsik ruling due to the involvement of judges nominated by a body repeatedly deemed illegitimate due to the PiS government’s reforms and who sit in a Supreme Court chamber also ruled not to be legitimate.

Initially, both Kamiński and Wąsik’s appeals were directed by Hołownia to the Supreme Court’s labour chamber. Kamiński’s case was assigned to three judges all appointed before PiS’s overhaul of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), the body responsible for nominating judges.

But Wąsik’s was given to three so-called “neo-judges” appointed under the reformed KRS. A number of Polish and European court rulings have found that those reforms, which increased politicians’ influence over the KRS, rendered it illegitimate. That has in turn cast doubt on judges subsequently appointed by it.

A chamber of the Supreme Court created by the former PiS government is „not a tribunal established by law”, the EU’s top court has found.

The same chamber is due next month to rule on the validity of the recent elections at which PiS lost power https://t.co/gXgHSobD8C

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 22, 2023

One of the judges assigned to Wąsik’s case decided on Thursday morning to transfer it to the extraordinary review and public affairs chamber. That body was created by the PiS government and is filled with judges nominated by the reformed KRS.

Both the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) have found the chamber to not be a lawfully established body.

A few hours after the case had been transferred to that chamber, a panel of three of its judges – one of whom served as a deputy interior minister in the PiS government – overturned Hołownia’s decision regarding the expiration of Wąsik’s parliamentary mandate.

That went quickly; the Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs Chamber struck down the Speaker’s resolution on terminating Wąsik’s mandate. As expected, people who owe the previous ruling coalition their jobs will be eager to repay their debts.

— Jakub Jaraczewski (@J_Jaraczewski) January 4, 2024

In response to the ruling, Hołownia said that it was “ultimate proof of what their [the PiS government’s] tampering with the justice system in Poland has led to today” and “why reform of the rule of law is needed”.

Hołownia noted that he had sent Wąsik and Kamiński’s appeals to the labour chamber and said he was still waiting for decisions to be issued by that chamber, not a different one.

He added that he wanted “the case to be entrusted to an adjudicating panel that would not undermine the trust that the judiciary should inspire in a democratic society”.

But Hołownia also admitted that, after today’s decision, “Wąsik’s status is unclear” and “we are dealing with an unprecedented situation”.

Niemniej, wydaje mi się, że marszałek może próbować ponownie nadesłać odwołanie do Izby Pracy lub sama ta izba powinna procedować, jakby decyzji Izby Kontroli nie było. Rozstrzygnięcie IKNiSP nie ma waloru powagi rzeczy osądzonej, na którą mógłby powoływać się Wąsik. https://t.co/VFDidtQ8sM pic.twitter.com/9NlrHnBkDO

— Patryk Wachowiec (@Patryk_1234567) January 4, 2024

An MP from the governing coalition, Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz, meanwhile tweeted that “Kamiński and Wąsik lost their right to be elected and are no longer MPs no matter how many neo-judges want to save them”.

Even the president of the Supreme Court’s labour chamber, Piotr Prusinowski, criticised the fact that one of his judges had handed the case to a different chamber. “Now everyone can see the chaos we have in the Supreme Court,” he told news website OKO.press.

A lawyer representing Kamiński told the Polish Press Agency (PAP) that they had filed a request for the Supreme Court’s chief justice, Małgorzata Manowska (another “neo-judge”), to resolve the dispute over which chamber should be responsible for hearing the appeals.

Nie ma żadnego zamieszania wokół mandatów obu skazanych prawomocnym wyrokiem panów z PiS. Kamiński i Wąsik utracili prawo wybieralności i nie są już posłami. Bez względu na to ilu neosędziów będzie chciało ich uratować.

— Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz (@Gasiuk_Pihowicz) January 4, 2024

Wąsik and Kamiński’s case is made more complicated by the fact that in 2015 President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, issued them with pardons. Last year, the Supreme Court found that decision to be invalid because it was made before a final ruling had been issued against the pair. That paved the way for their convictions this year.

But the Constitutional Tribunal, a body seen as being under the influence of PiS, ruled that the Supreme Court had no right to question a presidential veto. Duda considers his pardon to still be valid and his chancellery has said that, if Wąsik and Kamiński are jailed, they will be “political prisoners”.

Whether and when the pair do end up serving their prison sentence will be decided separately by a district court in Warsaw, notes OKO.press.

For more on the story, see our report from last week https://t.co/bdGYjagEaK

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 30, 2023

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: MSWiA (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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