The European Union's highest court ruled Tuesday that Poland's government has too much influence over judges, the latest EU court decision to question changes made to the country's judicial system.
Ruling on the Polish justice minister's powers to endorse judges for high criminal courts and to end their terms, the European Court of Justice said that EU law precludes the regime in force.
The court said the system whereby the justice minister is also the public prosecutor general and may terminate at any time a judge's term without stating a reason impedes the independence of the judiciary and gives reasonable doubt about the judge's impartiality.
Taken together, the justice minister's authority means judges "are not provided with the guarantees and the independence which all judges should normally enjoy in a state governed by the rule of law."
EU headquarters and Poland have been in a long-running standoff over the Polish government's efforts to control the judiciary.
The Court of Justice raised the stakes in the fight over judicial independence and the primacy of EU law when it fined Poland $1.2 million a day last month to prevent what it called serious and irreparable harm to the EU's legal order and values.
The court imposed the penalty after a weeklong war of words in which Poland told the EU to stay out of its judicial affairs and other EU nations insisted that Warsaw could not continue to get huge EU subsidies while disregarding the bloc's democratic principles at will.