ECJ to rule speedily on European Arrest Warrant case

Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly query around rule of law in Poland gets ‘expedited’ status

Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly said “immense” legislative changes to Poland’s judicial system under the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party called into question the rule of law and judicial independence in Poland, and thus the mutual trust underpinning the EAW system. Photograph: Alan Betson

Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly said “immense” legislative changes to Poland’s judicial system under the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party called into question the rule of law and judicial independence in Poland, and thus the mutual trust underpinning the EAW system. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A judgment in the European Arrest Warrant case sent to the EU’s Court of Justice in Luxembourg by the High Court because of concerns about the quality of the Polish justice system is likely within three months.

The case has been given “expedited” procedure status by the Luxembourg court. As well as meaning that the case will be heard promptly, this means it will be open to all other EU member states, and the EU institutions, to become involved.

The ruling in the case could have consequences for the operation of the EAW system in so far as it involves Poland. The system works on a presumption of the quality of the justice systems within the EU.

It could also have important political consequences as the European Commission and the Council of Europe struggle to respond to changes introduced by the government in Warsaw which have weakened the rule of law.

The court, which oversees EU law, is in the process of translating the referral it has received from High Court judge Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly in March so that all member states can consider it. This may be ready by next week.

In March, Poland’s deputy justice minister Marcin Warchol accused the Irish High Court of engaging in 'political games'

It is considered likely that Poland, the European Commission, and quite possibly a range of others, will seek to “intervene”, or be heard, in the case.

Final judgment

A hearing is expected within five to six weeks, after which an advocate general’s view will be released, following which the court itself will issue its final judgment.

Hearings in the European Court of Justice usually only last an hour or two, with each party being given approximately 20 minutes to add oral submissions having also made written submissions.

In March, Poland’s deputy justice minister Marcin Warchol accused the Irish High Court of engaging in “political games” and left open whether Warsaw would accept the outcome of the European Court of Justice hearing.

Ms Justice Donnelly’s decision to seek guidance from the ECJ on whether Poland’s reformed judicial system still meets EU standards caused uproar in Warsaw.

Ms Justice Donnelly said “immense” legislative changes to Poland’s judicial system under the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party called into question the rule of law and judicial independence in Poland, and thus the mutual trust underpinning the EAW system.

She has sought the Luxembourg court’s guidance on whether such concerns are founded and relevant in the EAW case of 31-year-old Artur Celmer, sought in Poland on drug-trafficking charges.