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Politics, Religion and Law

The Autonomy of the Polish Constitutional Court in Question

Politik, Religion und Recht
Zur Anfechtung der Autonomie des polnischen Verfassungsgerichts
Tomasz Warczok ORCID logo and Hanna Dębska ORCID logo

Abstract

One of the key principles of the rule of law is the independence of the judiciary. This idea is usually presented in an abstract and normative way, while its meaning remains highly debatable. Leaving aside formal and legal assumptions, this article focuses on a detailed examination of a specific court – the Polish Constitutional Tribunal (CT) – an institution commonly perceived as one that has recently lost its “independence” in favour of subordination to political power. In order to show that this process is deeply complex and far from being common-sense, we replace the category of “(in)dependence” with the more appropriate notions of relative autonomy and heteronomy. Therefore, the object of a detailed analysis is the biographical trajectories of all CT judges elected between its establishment in 1985 and 2019. Applying geometric analysis to prosopographical data (a collective biography of judges), allows us to demonstrate the multidimensionality and dynamics of the autonomy (or heteronomy) of a key judicial institution and reveal hidden power relations (legal, political, religious, etc.) that go beyond the common-sense “politicization of law”.

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Annex. Table.1.

Form of Capital

Variable

Categories

Axis 1

Axis 2

N

Academic capital

Title

Professor

8.3

1.0

32

Habilitation

0.1

0.8

18

PhD

5.8

1.2

5

MA

10.6

9.5

15

total

24.8

12.5

70

University

low

0.3

0.1

21

med

0.0

1.1

13

top

0.1

0.2

36

total

0.4

1.4

70

International academic experience

yes

7.2

0.2

17

no

2.3

0.1

53

total

9.5

0.3

70

Legal professional capital

Advocate

yes

2.4

4.3

6

no

0.2

0.4

64

total

2.6

4.7

70

Legal counsel

yes

0

0.1

6

no

0.2

1.3

64

total

0.2

1.4

70

Judge (lower court judge)

yes

14.2

9.4

18

no

4.9

3.3

52

total

19.1

12.7

70

Prosecutor

yes

4.7

11.8

5

no

0.4

0.9

65

total

5.1

12.7

70

Additional legal capital

Supreme Court and Administration Supreme Court

yes

7.5

16.7

11

no

1.4

3.1

59

total

8.9

19.8

70

Tribunal of State (TS)

yes

2.2

0.2

6

no

0.2

0

64

total

2.4

0.2

70

Constitutional Court office and Ombudsman office

yes

5.9

5.7

6

no

0.5

0.5

64

total

6.4

6.2

70

Bureaucratic and political capital

Parliament

yes

0.1

4.8

17

no

0

1.5

53

total

0.1

6.3

70

Government administration

yes

3.1

2.5

20

no

1.3

1.0

50

total

4.4

3.5

70

International Institution expert

yes

4.3

4.6

6

no

0.4

0.4

64

total

4.7

5.0

70

Expert capital

Parliament expert

yes

1.4

2.4

7

no

0.2

0.3

63

total

1.6

2.7

70

Government expert

yes

4.6

0.4

10

no

0.8

0.1

60

total

5.4

0.5

70

Legislation expert

yes

2.9

6.5

24

no

1.5

3.4

46

total

4.4

9.9

70

Bold: variables > average contribution (100/16=6.3); Italics: modalities > average contribution (100/35=2.86)

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

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