IAWJ Holds Evening Discussion on Attacks to Judicial Independence Featuring IAWJ member, Judge Klaudia Lozyk from Poland

Washington, DC, USA | The IAWJ held an event, hosted by IAWJ President, Hon. Vanessa Ruiz, on attacks to judicial independence featuring a conversation with IAWJ member, Judge Klaudia Lozyk from Poland.

Klaudia Lozyk became a judge in the year 2000. She was appointed President of the Polish District Court in Slupsk in 2011. Her term was supposed to last until 2019 but because of systemic threats to the rule of law in her country, she, along with a dozen of her colleagues, was dismissed from her role by decision of the Polish Ministry of Justice in December 2017.

Judge Lozyk was discharged without any evident criteria, reason, or explanation, violating what is stipulated in the country’s constitution. The rule of law and judicial independence in Poland has been under threat since 2015. Judge Lozyk, among over 150 other judges, had undertaken efforts to protect the integrity of the polish judicial system, which led to their dismissals and further weakening of the rule of law. 60% of the courts in Poland suffered from this “purge.” She is taking all judicial measures at her disposal to defend the sovereignty of the courts and the independence of judges. 

She mentions that 43 judges were asked to take her position, but they did not accept because they do not agree with the government’s policies. After 4 months, someone had to be appointed by the Minister of Justice. 

“My colleagues at my court asked me to not keep quiet, we give each other support.”

Among the policies imposed by the government were changes to the mandatory retirement age of judges and the creation of disciplinary proceedings where judges serve as witnesses to their colleagues. For Judge Lozyk, “the disciplinary proceedings are like freezing ethics, a freezing effort.” Among the judges that were dismissed, two are on trial and sixteen have disciplinary proceedings. Fortunately, Judge Lozyk is not among them, at least not yet. 

“Our big hope is the European Union. Our judges are also European Union judges. We have to respect the rule of law, because this is the main condition for the European Union to exist. We are not alone”

The European Commission sent out a decision requesting the Polish government to stop its changes to the judiciary and restore the judges to their appointments. However, they have not complied.  “My government is not reacting as it should. We think that maybe they don’t want to be part of the European Union.”