Poland's top court judges criticize pro-government principal

Poland's top court judges criticize pro-government principal

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Judges in Poland's top constitutional court wrote to their pro-government principal Thursday complaining that she had kept some of them from handling cases.

Seven out of the Constitutional Tribunal's 15 judges signed the letter to their head, Julia Przylebska. It came on the heels of mass street protests and European Union condemnation of new legislation that has forced the retirement of some of Poland's Supreme Court judges, as part of a government-ordered judicial overhaul.

"Almost from the start of your term ... we have found irregularities in your procedure of choosing members for the judicial panels at the Tribunal," the judges wrote.

They insisted that the procedure should be transparent and the criteria clear, especially in cases where, they said, Przylebska removed some judges during the course of the case. She keeps some others from cases altogether, they said.

The judicial overhaul, pushed by the ruling, right-wing Law and Justice party ever since it won power in 2015, has been widely criticized.

The constitutional tribunal, which checks legislation for compliance with the constitution, was the first target of the changes. Przylebska and three other judges were appointed to the tribunal in a procedure that, critics say, violated the law. The move seems to have tarnished its authority.

The EU, of which Poland is a member, has opened unprecedented legal procedures against a perceived erosion of democracy in Poland. The conflict has put Poland as odds with many of its EU partners.

Przylebska insisted Thursday she was following regulations but also had to take into account the scope of each case as well as vacation and sick leave taken by judges.

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