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The Latest: Law on Poland Supreme Court Passes

The Latest: Law on Poland Supreme Court Passes

Friday, 08 December 2017 08:38 AM

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Latest on the political situation in Poland (all times local):

2:10 p.m.

Poland's parliament has passed a bill that will change how the country's Supreme Court functions, a step critics see as an erosion of judicial independence under the populist Law and Justice party.

Lawmakers voted 239-171, with 24 abstentions, to pass the law on the Supreme Court, whose duties include confirming election results.

The lower house of parliament is set to vote later Friday on a separate bill that would change how judges are nominated.

The Venice Commission, a body of legal experts with Europe's Council of Europe, a top human rights body, says the changes together constitute a "grave threat" to Poland's judicial system.

The bills must also be approved by the Senate, where the ruling Law and Justice party has a comfortable majority, and then be signed by President Andrzej Duda. The president's office has indicated he will enact them into law.

1:35 p.m.

Europe's leading human rights body says that legal changes being put to a vote in the Polish parliament constitute a "grave threat" to the judiciary.

The Venice Commission, a group of legal experts within the Council of Europe, made the assessment as Polish lawmakers prepared to vote Friday on two bills that would reshape the judicial branch, including how judges are named.

In a statement, the commission said the two laws, together with previous changes to the courts made by the ruling Law and Justice party, put the independence of Poland's the judiciary "at serious risk."

The commission gave a detailed critique of bills being put to a final vote in parliament and expected to pass.

It cited a provision that would lower the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court judges, forcing the immediate resignation of dozens of the court's justices unless they receive individual exemptions.

The commission said this "jeopardizes the independence of the judiciary as a whole."

1:25 p.m.

Poland's lawmakers have started debating two bills that would increase the ruling party's control over the judiciary and that critics say would make judges and courts vulnerable to political influence.

The populist Law and Justice party has the majority needed to pass the bills on Friday. The legislation would change the functioning of the nation's Supreme Court and the process for naming the National Council of the Judiciary, the body that nominates judges.

Opposition lawmakers say the changes coming to a vote in the lower house of parliament represent a power grab. Opponents called it an "attack" on the judiciary.

Law and Justice says it has a democratic mandate to reform the judicial system, which it describes as deeply corrupt and inefficient.

The expected vote come a day after Law and Justice said Poland's finance minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, will replace Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.

10:25 a.m.

Poland's outgoing prime minister says she will continue to fight for the government's conservative program in another position, speaking a day after the ruling party said Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki would replace her.

Beata Szydlo addressed lawmakers Friday following the political shake-up announced by Law and Justice on Thursday evening. One official suggested she would be deputy prime minister.

Friday is expected to be another eventful day in Warsaw, with lawmakers to vote on controversial legislation that would put the Supreme Court and a judicial body under the party's control.

Poland's opposition and the European Union believe the laws will erode the independence of the judiciary. Some critics see the change of prime minister as an attempt to distract people from the passage of those laws.

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The Latest on the political situation in Poland (all times local):2:10 p.m.Poland's parliament has passed a bill that will change how the country's Supreme Court functions, a step critics see as an erosion of judicial independence under the populist Law and Justice...
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Friday, 08 December 2017 08:38 AM
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