After years of squabbling between Brussels and Warsaw, the European Court of Justice in July ordered Poland to dismantle its new disciplinary system for judges.
Law and Justice’s leader in August indicated that Poland might follow the order, at least partially, but has since backtracked, leaving the government to press on with its case before the constitutional court, based on arguments that the Polish Constitution, not E.U. courts, must be the ultimate legal arbiter.
“In the hierarchy of sources of law, the Treaty on European Union is below the Constitution,” Bartlomiej Sochanski, a constitutional court justice, said in court, giving a summary of the ruling.
The government has said it had no intention of leaving the union, which has provided billions of dollars in funding and which, according to opinion polls, enjoys overwhelming public support.
“The Polish government wants to have its cake, and eat it, too,” said Anna Wojcik, a researcher at the Polish Academy of Sciences, who specializes in the rule of law. “They want to stay in the European Union, because this is what 90 percent of Poles support, but at the same time they want to free themselves from the European rulings concerning the judiciary.”
The European Commission has repeatedly said it will not accept that, while avoiding any statements that would cast doubt on Poland’s future membership in a bloc that is still recovering from the shock of Brexit.
The disputed disciplinary system for judges, said Ms. Wojcik, “touches on the fundamental issue of the right to effective judicial protection” and threatens “the European legal order.”