Ruling party votes through three constitutional court judges

Law and Justice (PiS) have forced through three of their candidates for justices of the constitutional court.

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) have stayed united and succeeded in electing their nominees to the constitutional court. Two of the new justices are former PiS MPs, Stanisław Piotrowicz and Krystyna Pawłowicz. The third is a professor of law from Gdansk, Jakub Stelina.

The election in the Lower House was marred in controversy as the opposition argued that not only were these candidates too partisan, but they also failed to meet the legal requirements in terms of age. They also pointed to the fact that Mr Piotrowicz had been a prosecutor as well as being a member of the communist party in the 1980s and asked how that squared with one of the aims of personnel changes in the judiciary being the clear out of former communist officials.

According to the Ombudsman, Adam Bodnar, neither Mr Piotrowicz nor prof. Pawłowicz should have been allowed to stand as both have reached the statutory age of retirement for judges. The retirement age for judges was in fact set by the ruling PiS in the previous parliamentary term.

Stanisław Piotrowicz was a PiS MP and chair of the Judiciary Committee in the last parliamentary term. He failed in his bid for re-election to the Lower House in the October Parliamentary elections.

Krystyna Pawłowicz is a professor of administrative law who was an MP in the last two parliamentary terms. She did not stand for Parliament at the last election. During her time in Parliament she became well known for her controversial social media posts expressing strongly conservative views on cultural issues.

Jakub Stelina is professor of law from Gdańsk. He is a labour law specialist who was a student of the former Polish President prof. Lech Kaczyński.

Changes in the identity of the third candidate

Prof Jakub Stelina replaced Dr Robert Jastrzębski, a doctor of law from Warsaw University as the PiS candidate. Dr Jastrzębski had in turn replaced the original candidate for that position that the ruling party announced some weeks ago. That was Elżbieta Chojna-Duch, a professor of finance law who has served as Deputy Finance Minister in two non-PiS governments.

PiS abruptly withdrew her nomination and gave no reason for doing so. A similar fate seems to have befallen Dr Jastrzębski. The MPs who nominated him suddenly withdrew their signatures and his candidacy was no more.

The reason for this merry go round is reported to lie in ongoing talks within the ruling camp in which the smaller parties that make up the ruling “United Right- PiS” , the Agreement party and the “Solidarity Poland” party were to be given the chance to nominate a candidate.

The deputy PM Jarosław Gowin’s “agreement” has made no secret of the fact that it was less than enthusiastic about supporting Stanisław Piotrowicz because of his communist past. The compromise by which they are now to be allowed to have a say in the nomination of the third member of the constitutional court may have facilitated their support for both Mr Piotrowicz and Prof. Pawłowicz in Thursday’s vote in the Lower House of Poland’s parliament.