Vanishing photos, closed door, symbolic scene. The inside story of the court revolution
The inside story of the court revolution symbolized not only by the predecessors’ photos and exhibition about the history of the constitution disappearing from the Constitutional Tribunal’s halls. Even more telltale is the institution’s door – closed for the media, and open for the governing party’s politicians. The story is told to Tomasz Marzec by clerks and lawyers working, until recently, at the Constitutional Tribunal. Material of the TVN24 "Czarno na białym" show.
The story of the revolution at the Constitutional Tribunal begins in December 2016. After her nomination, a doubtful one in legal terms, to the position of the President of the Constitutional Tribunal, Julia Przyłębska went straight to its seat at Szucha Avenue in Warsaw. Over there she was welcomed, as if by its host, by Mariusz Muszyński. On the very day the revolution at CT started.
What the so-called good change at the Constitutional Tribunal looked like from the inside was described to a TVN24 reporter by employees, clerks and experienced lawyers with academic titles.
The first day of the so-called good change
On 21 December 2016, President Julia Przyłębska prohibited holding press conferences inside the seat of CT. This was one of the first decisions of the new President. The Tribunal door was shut down for the media.
- The President instructed me to move to another room – professor Stanisław Biernat, the then Vice-President and a judge with the longest term in office at the Tribunal, declared on 21 December 2016.
- They wanted to throw Biernat out in his absence – Piotr Rachtan, former CT employee, explained. – Obviously this came to be seen as a scandal and a gross impropriety – he added.
One of the former employees wishing to remain anonymous said “basically the furniture was removed” from the judge’s office.
- He had probably been tipped that something like that may happen, so all the documents – you know, judges have files, these need to be well guarded, they are responsible for these – were properly secured by Biernat’s assistant – he went on to add.
- I have no comments on such behavior and on many others that took place there – a former CT employee declared.
On the same day, the new CT authorities closed down the “Obserwator Konstytucyjny” (Constitutional Observer), an educational portal run by Piotr Rachtan. He published there expert articles explaining the meaning of rulings and of the provisions of laws. Among other things, the “Observer” challenged Julia Przyłębska’s right to head the Tribunal.
- Muszyński first ordered to turn off the “Observer”, and then to turn off or make other changes to official court websites – says Rachtan.
Academic titles of judges, most of whom are professors, were removed from the Constitutional Tribunal’s website. Unofficially, people would say that they were removed because Przyłębska has a title of Master of Laws. Next, the new authorities had pictures of former presidents of the Tribunal taken off the walls of the CT building. They were packed and moved to the basement.
- Display cases containing the original copy of the constitution of the Principality of Warsaw, and photocopies and facsimiles of various documents of the Great Sejm were also removed – said a former employee anonymously.
He does not know what has happened to those materials. – Maybe they ended up at a storage facility if not in a hall – the man supposed.
Unexpected reply to Christmas greetings
Przyłębska concluded her first day in office, as the President of the Constitutional Tribunal, by sending an e-mail to all of the court’s employees, with Christmas greetings.
Next day, she got the first reply to her greetings. It was sent by a constitutionalist with a habilitation in legal sciences, a person with an impressive academic record. “Dear Madam, please find enclosed my notice of termination of employment. The self-evident violations of the Constitution that have occurred over the last two days have made the Constitutional Tribunal a subordinate body. My conscience does not allow me to work at an institution that is guarding unconstitutional laws” – wrote the former employee in a message to Julia Przyłębska, received by all CT employees.
Mariusz Muszyński stepped in. He wrote an official letter containing the following demand: “Please apologize to the employer for the glaring breach of the right to criticism (…). I see the behavior in the relevant matter and the correspondence as a violation of the rules of social life and as overstepping the right to criticism and a sign of disloyalty”. “I expect (…) an apology within 7 days” – wrote Muszyński.
Politicians at the Tribunal
While journalists started to have an increasingly limited access to CT, hearings would, more and more often, not be held at all, and those actually held could not be recorded. The image from one camera was made available. At the same time, the Tribunal opened its door for the politicians of the United Right (Zjednoczona Prawica). Politicians started to show up in places that used to be off-limits for them.
- I myself have seen a few politicians entering the office of the President, Deputy President – reported one of the former employees.
- They were seen in the part of the court which used to be always off-limits for them – said another man.
Guests from Wiejska street
Arkadiusz Mularczyk, a Solidarna Polska MP, is one of the most frequent guests at the Tribunal.
- The talks touched on the U1/17, or the issue of resolutions relating to three judges. Mr. Muszyński was one of them. Then it coincided with Mr. Mularczyk’s visit to the Tribunal – said one of the former employees of CT.
U1/17 is a matter where Zbigniew Ziobro questioned the election of the so-called old CT judges: Zubik, Tuleja and Rymar. – I do not settle rulings with the judge – said Mularczyk, when asked about the conversation at the Tribunal.
- I am an MP who represents the Sejm on matters brought before the Constitutional Tribunal. I also file motions with the Tribunal – explained Mularczyk in an interview with the reporter. He added that this “falls within the scope of responsibilities” fulfilled by him.
- I met Arkadiusz Mularczyk (at CT – editor’s note) on the day there was no hearing, in the afternoon, before 4 p.m. I am not able to explain what he was doing at the Tribunal – said one of those interviewed by TVN24 reporter.
Mularczyk was not the only guest at CT. One of the employees said he had seen at the building the Law and Justice MP, special services coordinator, Mariusz Kamiński.
- I passed him by presidential restrooms. This is a kind of antechamber or hall that leads directly to the secretariat of the President of the Tribunal – said the man.
The spokesperson for Mariusz Kamiński, when asked about the visits to the Tribunal, informed that he cannot comment on the matter. As reported by one of the firmer CT employees, Kamiński may have many reasons to visit the Tribunal. – From an introductory visit to one that I (as a lawyer) would never want to know it has ever taken place in this country – he declared.
Another man said that he had met the Law and Justice MP, Stanisław Piotrowicz at the foyer of the CT seat. – I have been many times to the Constitutional Tribunal because I wish to remind you that I have, on many occasions, represented the Sejm before the Tribunal – commented Piotrowicz.
This and last year, the Law and Justice MP, former communist-time prosecutor, did not represent the Sejm at the Tribunal, not even once.
Former Presidents of CT concur in saying that, except for official ceremonies and meetings, such visits by politicians to the Tribunal would never take place in the past.
Jerzy Stępień said that the presence of the special services coordinator at CT, except for specific occasions, is a sign of an element of police state emerging.
- This kind of suspicions, which will be always involved in some weird relationships with politicians, will seriously weaken the judges’ moral authority – added Prof. Marek Safjan, former President of CT.
"The darkest figure" at the Tribunal
At the new Constitutional Tribunal, great powers have been bestowed by President Przyłębska on Mariusz Muszyński. – The constitutional court, just like any other institution, has CCTV inside, for the obvious security and all other reasons. So the stand-in judge watched its recordings. I don’t know if it’s because he was fascinated by the internal structure of the institution or by the flow of people – reported one of the former employees.
Muszyński is the person responsible for the personnel revolution at the Tribunal. – It was this formula that you do not fit with the new vision – the man who no longer works at the constitutional court comments on the reasons for layoffs.
- This is generally the darkest figure CT has had ever since it started to operate in this building – said one of the former employees. – I do not know if this constitutional court will ever recover. If it will ever regain the trust it had enjoyed for years – he added.
Źródło: tvn24/tłumaczenie Intertext.com.pl
Źródło zdjęcia głównego: tvn24