July 3, 2018 / 10:16 AM / 18 days ago

Polish president to meet with Supreme Court head before reforms kick in

WARSAW (Reuters) - The head of Poland’s Supreme Court said she has accepted an invitation for a meeting with President Andrzej Duda later on Tuesday, the last day before the ruling party’s divisive judicial reform takes effect.

Head of the Poland's Supreme Court Malgorzata Gersdorf leaves Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files

Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party is at loggerheads with the European Union over reforms that have allowed it to take de facto control over prosecutors, the constitutional tribunal, lower-level courts heads and a judges’ oversight body.

The European Commission opened a fresh legal case against Poland on Monday over the changes to the Supreme Court, which it says will further undermine judicial independence in the largest ex-communist member of the bloc.

Under the measures due to come into effect at midnight on Tuesday, nearly 37 percent of Supreme Court judges will be forced to retire unless they are granted an extension by Duda, a PiS ally.

He is expected to announce Supreme Court President Malgorzata Gersdorf’s retirement date on Tuesday.

Gersdorf, an outspoken critic of the PiS and its reforms, said in a television interview broadcast on Tuesday that the presidential palace had invited her to a meeting with Duda at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT).

A supreme court spokesman confirmed Gersdorf had been invited and would attend the afternoon meeting with Duda, but said he did not know what the purpose of the meeting was.

The presidential palace press office confirmed the meeting.

Protests against PiS’ judicial reforms under the slogan “In Defence of the Supreme Court” are expected in cities across Poland on Tuesday evening, according to organisers Komitet Obrony Demokracji (KOD).

On Wednesday, Supreme Court employees and judges are planning a protest outside the court at which Gersdorf will attempt to go to work as normal, according to the court’s spokesman.

Gersdorf has said on many occasions that she would refuse to resign and that under Poland’s constitution, she should stay in her post until 2020.

“I will not accept Mr President’s letter about retiring. In my opinion I am a president (of the Supreme Court) until 2020,” Gersdorf said told private television channel TVN24.

Poland's President Andrzej Duda speaks during his media announcement about his decision on the Holocaust bill at Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, February 6, 2018. Agencja Gazeta/Dawid Zuchowicz via REUTERS/Files

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski, Pawel Florkiewicz and Pawel Sobczak; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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