Polish Supreme Court Head Defies Ruling Party As Crisis Deepens

Polish pro-democracy activists

Polish pro-democracy activists

Poland's disputed top judge showed up at work on Wednesday in defiance of a controversial retirement law that the European Union has criticised as a threat to the country's judicial independence.

The new moves are part of a broader set of aggressive actions taken by the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) that entrenches its control over the judiciary, raising alarm from critics who see it as the government overstepping its legal authority.

The law, introduced earlier this year by the governing Law and Justice Party (PiS), would not only force the instant dismissal of 27 of the 74 judges, but would also expand the court to 120 judges.

Supporters chanting "constitution" and singing the Polish national anthem surrounded her at the entrance to the court. "I'm doing this to defend the rule of law and to testify the truth about the line between the constitution and the violation of the constitution", Gersdorf told journalists and supporters outside the court.

Gersdorf said that she would "go on vacation" after her appearance at work on Wednesday and that she had named Jozef Iwulski as a temporary replacement during her absence.

Dozens of people protested in front of the presidential palace Tuesday before a meeting he held with Gersdorf, holding up a sign that said: "He who breaks the highest law is a traitor to the nation".

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

Up to 40% of Supreme Court judges will be forced out, as part of changes that the government argues will help fight corruption and replace judges who date back to a communist era.

On Monday, the European Union launched legal action against Poland relating to the law, the latest salvo in a bitter battle over judicial changes critics have decried as unconstitutional.

Responding to criticism over the reforms, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the European Parliament on Wednesday that EU states have the "right" to create their own legal systems. An adviser to President Andrzej Duda also insisted that Gersdorf has no choice but to step down.

The European Union has accused the Polish government of enacting laws that "interfere significantly" in the judiciary, and has given it one month to answer its concerns. There were no disturbances or any force used to prevent her from entering the court.

It opens the door for the European Court of Justice to prevent the nomination of new judges to the Supreme Court, he said, and in combination with the threat of Article 7 proceedings will significantly increase the pressure on Poland's government.

Further demonstrations are planned outside the court on Wednesday evening. "The court system.is an entirely internal matter", PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski was quoted by the PAP news agency on Tuesday as telling Gazeta Polska newspaper.

"After already having taken control of common courts and the constitutional court, the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party now has captured control of the Supreme Court, the final appeals court for all civil and criminal cases, and the body that authorizes election results".

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