Polish Constitutional Crisis – Timeline
Questions and answers about the crisis: Polish Constitutional Crisis – FAQ
Last update: 21 Aug 2016
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- Jun 2015 The previous parliament (controlled by the Civic Platform and PSL) passes a new Constitutional Court Act, The law contains the controversial Article 137, which enables Parliament to appoint all of the judges whose term begins in 2015 – even those who would normally be appointed by the next parliament.
- 8 Oct The previous parliament appoints 5 judges of the Constitutional Court: three judges whose terms start on Nov 7 and two whose terms start on Dec 3 and 9 (i.e. after the new parliament is assembled).
- from 8 Oct President Duda has refused to accept the oath from the newly appointed judges, even though he is required to do so without delay. As a result, the judges are unable to carry out their duties. (can the President refuse to accept the oath? how does the President justify his refusal?)
- 12 Nov The new parliament begins its term.
- 19 Nov The new parliament (controlled by PiS) passes an amendment to the Constitutional Court Act, which enables the re-appointment of all 5 judges and shortens the term of the current Chairman of the Court. The bill is signed by President Duda on the same day.
- 20 Nov In response to PiS’s actions, a Facebook group called “Democracy Defense Committee” appears. After two days, it has 20.000 members.
- 25 Nov Parliament passes resolutions declaring that all the appointments made by the previous parliament in October were void.
- 2 Dec Parliament appoints 5 new judges of the Constitutional Court. Interestingly, the appointments are made before the amendment of 19 Nov comes into effect. (how does PiS justify the appointment of 5 new judges?) Just after midnight, President Duda accepts the oath from 4 out of the 5 new judges. On Dec 9, the President will accept the oath from the last of the 5 judges.
- 3 Dec The Constitutional Court rules that the previous parliament had the authority to appoint three judges, but not the two “extra” judges.
- 9 Dec The CC strikes down the majority of the Nov 19 amendment as unconstitutional.
- 11 Dec The head of the Prime Minister’s Executive Office, Beata Kempa, writes a letter to the Chairman of the CC, saying that she is “suspending” the publication of the Dec 3 ruling until the Chairman responds to doubts about the number of judges in the panel which delivered the verdict. The Chairman responds only with a reminder that publishing the verdict is the Prime Minister’s obligation. A few hours later, the Government’s spokesperson promises that the verdict will be published, while the Chairman of PiS, Jarosław Kaczyński, says: “the verdict must not be published”. (can the Prime Minister not publish a verdict of the CC?)
- 12 Dec Tens of thousands of people protest in Warsaw and several major cities against the unlawful actions of Parliament, the Government and the President. The following day, PiS organizes a demonstration in Warsaw with a somewhat smaller turnout.
- 14 Dec The District Attorney’s Office in Warsaw launches an inquiry into the failure to publish the Dec 3 verdict.
- 16 Dec The Prime Minister publishes the Dec 3 verdict.
- 19 Dec Demonstrations against PiS in Warsaw and many other cities.
- 24 Dec PiS votes through the so-called “repair” amendment to the Constitutional Court Act that forbids the CC from hearing most cases without at least 13 judges present (due to the crisis, the CC only has 12 “active” judges) and forces it to process petitions in chronological order. (what else does the amendment say?)
- 28 Dec The “repair” bill is signed by President Duda. It is published within a few hours and comes into force immediately.
- 9 Jan 2016 Demonstrations in major cities against PiS’s actions with respect to public media and the Constitutional Court.
- 11 Jan The CC refuses to examine the Nov 25 resolutions invalidating the appointments made by the previous parliament and the Dec 2 resolutions appointing 5 new judges, on the grounds that the Constitution only allows it to review laws, and these resolutions are not laws.
- 9 Mar The CC pronounces the “repair” bill of 22 Dec 2015 unconstitutional in its entirety. Prime Minister Szydło and other PiS politicians say that the verdict will not be published because it is void due to the fact that the CC did not follow the bill in deciding the case.
- 11 Mar The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe issues an opinion on the so-called “repair” bill. It concludes: “The [repair bill] would have endangered not only the rule of law, but also the functioning of the democratic system, as set out above. (...) Rather than speeding up the work of the Tribunal, these amendments, notably when taken together, could lead to a serious slow-down of the activity of the Tribunal and could make it ineffective as a guardian of the Constitution.”
- 30 Jul The President signs the new Constitutional Court Act of 22 July 2016. The new law gives the President a larger role in the appointment of the CC Chairman (a small group of judges supported by the President will be able to vote through their candidate). It introduces a number of ways in which CC rulings can be delayed and blocked by the Minister of Justice, the Prime Minister, or a small group of CC judges. It also mandates that the 3 judges incorrectly appointed on December 2 must be allowed to hear cases. (what else does the bill say?)
- 11 Aug In a closed session, the CC rules that most of the articles of the new bill are unconstitutional. (which articles have been ruled unconstitutional?)
- 18 Aug The Regional Attorney’s Office in Katowice (supervised by Minister of Justice Z. Ziobro) informs the public that it has been conducting an inquiry (since July 20) into possible criminal delinquency by CC Chairman A. Rzepliński in connection with his refusal to assign cases to the “replacement” judges appointed in December.
PO (Platforma Obywatelska – “Civic Platform”) is a center-right, pro-European party that was in power from 2007 to 2015. It formed a coalition government with PSL, a party representing mostly farmers.