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The access to justice gap and the rule of law crisis in Poland

Die Kluft beim Zugang zur Justiz und die Krise der Rechtsstaatlichkeit in Polen
  • Jan Winczorek ORCID logo EMAIL logo and Karol Muszyński ORCID logo


The article discusses selected problems of access to justice in Poland as an important context for the rule of law crisis since 2015. The difficulties in formally addressing justiciable problems were illustrated by the findings of empirical studies conducted in 2015 and 2018. The article argues that having experienced obstacles in addressing their justiciable issues, Polish society has developed what can be termed a highly rational stance towards the legal system, which can be expected to contribute to its reluctance to actively oppose the sweeping reforms of the judiciary introduced by populists. Understanding the effects of inaccessibility of justice combined with insufficient options to resolve justiciable problems outside of the law and legal institutions is an important addition to the prevailing politics- and culture-centred approaches to understanding of the long-standing multifaceted conflict around the judiciary in Poland.


Der Artikel erörtert ausgewählte Probleme des Zugangs zur Justiz in Polen als wichtigen Kontext für die Krise der Rechtsstaatlichkeit seit 2015. Der Artikel präsentiert die Ergebnisse empirischer Studien aus den Jahren 2015 und 2018, welche Probleme bei der formalen Lösung justiziabler Probleme in Polen aufzeigen und argumentiert, dass die polnische Gesellschaft angesichts der Schwierigkeiten, die sich bei der Behandlung justiziabler Probleme stellen, eine rationale Haltung gegenüber dem Rechtssystem entwickelt hat. Diese trägt vermutlich dazu bei, dass sie sich nicht aktiv gegen die von den Populisten eingeführten umfassenden Reformen des Justizwesens wehrt. Um den langjährigen, vielschichtigen Konflikt um die Justiz in Polen zu verstehen, ist es wichtig, die vorherrschenden politik- und kulturzentrierten Ansätze um die Diagnose zu ergänzen, dass in Polen die Justiz unzugänglich erscheint und es nur wenige Alternativen zur Lösung justiziabler Probleme außerhalb des Rechts und der juristischen Institutionen gibt.


This paper is the result of a research project, ‘Barriers of access to law among small and medium-sized enterprises in Poland’, funded by the National Science Centre (NCN 2016/21/B/HS5/00397).


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Published Online: 2022-05-19
Published in Print: 2022-05-31

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