Poland's justice minister disputes tenure of top judge

Poland is on the verge of forcing nearly half its Supreme Court judges out

Thousands Protest In Poland Over Supreme Court Purge

Gersdorf still showed up for work Wednesday, insisting that according to the constitution, her six-year term runs through 2020.

"I'm not engaging in politics; I'm doing this to defend the rule of law and to testify to the truth about the line between the constitution and the violation of the constitution", Malgorzata Gersdorf told reporters after emerging from the Supreme Court building in Warsaw.

Protests started this week against the new law, mandated by the right-wing ruling party, that cuts the retirement age to 65 from 70 for Poland's Supreme Court justices.

She is now married to Bohdan Zdziennicki, a retired Polish Constitutional Court judge. It said it was launching an "infringement procedure", which could result in Poland being referred to the European Court of Justice.

She said after showing up for work that she plans to go on holiday from next week, and that Iwulski would be standing in for her during her absence.

"We contest the law, but we can not directly invoke the constitution, so we have complied with it", Michal Laskowski, a Supreme Court justice, told the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

We can not simply say: "this is a purely national issue", Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President of the European 'Commission and Commissioner for the Eurozone and Social Dialogue said.

Surrounded by hundreds of cheering supporters, Poland's top Supreme Court justice took a defiant stand on the courthouse steps here on Wednesday morning and vowed to keep fighting to protect the Constitution and the independence of the nation's courts.

The European Commission opened a fresh legal case against Poland over the Supreme Court changes on Monday, saying that they undermine judicial independence in the largest formerly communist member of the EU.

Poland's anti-communist freedom icon Lech Walesa joined protesters at the Supreme Court on Wednesday evening. The domestic upheaval as well as concerns by the European Commission prompted authorities to concede to some changes, though the main thrust of the legislation has remained the same.

Demonstrators gathered in multiple Polish cities on Wednesday, and the wire service reports that they marched to the Presidential Palace to express their discontent with the actions of President Andrzej Duda.

Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Gersdorf is "doomed to fail miserably". "With no guarantees of basic freedoms, the fundamental rights of Polish citizens will be destroyed sooner or later", she said.

Under Article 7, the most serious punishment that could be inflicted would be the removal of Poland's voting rights in European Union institutions.

Guy Verhofstadt, president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, said that putting judges under political control was reminiscent of Soviet practices and said Poland should abandon its "illiberal" illusions.

Within Poland, protests against the ruling party's latest actions are likely to be smaller than other recent demonstrations because many people want to see reform of the judiciary, Buras said - and don't realize that what the ruling party is doing is "outrageous".

Government critics now are putting their hopes in the European Union to preserve the rule of law in their homeland - a message that was reflected in the chants and slogans at the protest.

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