Head of Poland’s Top Judicial Body Resigns Over New Rules

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The head of Poland’s top judicial body resigned Friday over new regulations pushed by the conservative ruling party that give politicians the power to choose the body’s members and prematurely terminate its current term.

The new law regulating the National Council of the Judiciary has drawn criticism in Poland and condemnation from European Union leaders who say it violates the basic principle of the rule of law.

It was a reason for the EU triggering an unprecedented sanctions procedure against Poland. The EU has called on Poland to reverse the changes that the ruling party is introducing to the council and to courts that give the party control over them.

The head of the council, Dariusz Zawistowski, said Friday he was resigning because — in the council’s opinion — the new regulations violate Poland’s constitution. His resignation is effective Monday, on the eve of the implementation of the new law.

The spokesman for the council, Waldemar Zurek, said the resignation was a form of protest against the new regulations. Also, various judicial associations have appealed to judges not to run for jobs in the council under the new rules, in what could potentially build into a major standoff with the ruling Law and Justice party.

The new regulations move the power to choose council members from judicial circles to lawmakers, which critics say violates judicial independence. The ruling party has sufficient majority in parliament to push its legislation and decisions and has used this to place loyalists in a top court and some other institutions.

The party argues that almost 30 years into democracy, the justice system and the judiciary need to be purged of remaining vestiges and judges of the communist era.

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