Poles Protest Judicial Reform

Polish Supreme Court First President Malgorzata Gersdorf showed up for work Wednesday, defying a new law forcing her retirement.

Gersdorf thanked a crowd of protesters who gathered to demonstrate outside the Supreme Court and said she was there to protect the rule of law.

Under the new law that lowers the mandatory retirement age for justices, more than a third of Supreme Court justices will be forced into retirement Wednesday.

Opponents say the law is an attempt by the government to take over the courts. The government says changes to the judiciary are necessary to update rules that in some cases date back to the days of communism.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a session of the European Parliament that every country in the EU has the right to develop its court system according to its own traditions.

Thousands of people waving Polish and European Union flags and shouting slogans demanding free courts demonstrated in Warsaw and other Polish cities on Tuesday.

Gersdorf, a strong critic of the ruling conservative Law and Justice Party was among those rallying Tuesday. She calls the law a “purge conducted in the Supreme Court … under the pretext of the retrospective change in retirement age.”

Gersdorf refused to apply for an extension, saying the constitution allows her to stay on the bench until 2020.

Nobel Prize-winning Solidarity founder Lech Walesa said he would be among those marching Wednesday, saying he is ready to “lead a physical removal of the main perpetrator of all misfortune” — a reference to Law and Justice party chief Jaroslaw Kaczynski. 

Walesa did not elaborate on what he meant by “physical removal.”

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