Press Release

A coalition of non-governmental organizations monitored the election process for a justice of the Polish Constitutional Court. The civic monitoring led to withdrawal of the candidate initially thought to have the support of the parliamentary majority.

Successful Monitoring of Candidates for Justices of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal


A joint project of:

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
INPRIS – Institute for Law and Society
Polish Section of the International Commission of Jurists

March 19, 2010

A coalition of non-governmental organizations monitored the election process for a justice of the Polish Constitutional Court. The civic monitoring led to withdrawal of the candidate initially thought to have the support of the parliamentary majority. The involvement of the press and the NGOs proved necessary for the official, parliamentary vetting process to work.

Since 2006, a coalition of non-governmental organizations („NGO Coalition”) monitors elections of the justices to the Polish Constitutional Tribunal. The name of the project is Civil Monitoring of Candidates for Justices (Obywatelski Monitoring Kandydatow na Sedziow).  Until 2010, the coalition consisted of the Batory Foundation, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and the Polish Section of the International Commission of Jurists. In January 2010, INPRIS - Institute for Law and Society, a newly established legal think-tank, joined the coalition in place of the Batory Foundation.

The NGO Coalition believes that elections to one of the key public positions in Poland should not occur without civic scrutiny. We think that the public has the right to know the ethical and professional qualifications of the candidates. The Coalition undertakes the following activities to advance an informed, fair and transparent election process:
- independent research, collection and publication of data on the candidates (e.g. filing requests for public information in government agencies that hold official records about the candidate’s career);
- we ask the candidates to answer a detailed questionnaire on their career and qualifications;our questionnaire and the answers are published on the Internet at;
- public debates with participation of the candidates;
- we monitor the parliamentary proceedings in the election process, starting with the official hearing of the candidates before the Justice and Human Rights Commission of Sejm (the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament).

In 2006-2009, the Coalition monitored the election of several candidates to the Constitutional Tribunal.

In January 2010, we started to monitor the elections for the position previously held by Justice Janusz Niemcewicz (the Vice-President of the Tribunal), who was going to end his term in March 2010.  “Gazeta Wyborcza”, a high circulation, influential daily newspaper, covered the election by running a series of articles on the election.

In the beginning of February 2010, Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) which is the majority partner in the government coalition in Poland, and holds the office of the Prime Minister, proposed Mr. Kazimierz Barczyk, a lawyer from Krakow, as a candidate. The proposal was made without any public consultation with the legal profession or the academic community. The opposition party, Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) proposed Professor Krystyna Pawłowicz of Warsaw University, an expert in economic administrative law, known for her critical views on Poland's integration with the EU.

Mr. Barczyk met criticism as a candidate. His professional qualifications for the position at the Tribunal have been questioned. Many commentators saw the proposal as a purely political nomination. Mr. Barczyk has been active in the Solidarity movement since the early eighties. Later he was a member of Parliament and of various political parties, usually oriented to the center or to the right side of the political spectrum in Poland. In his biographical information, Mr. Barczyk lists membership in the Civic Platform in 2004-2010. Recently, he has been active as a politician at the local level. In 1974-1982, Mr. Barczyk worked first as a candidate-judge and then judge. Currently, Mr. Barczyk is active as an attorney, but according to the press he is not well-known for his professional activity in this field.

In course of the monitoring, the NGO Coalition issued a statement to the Justice and Human Rights' Committee of the Polish Parliament. We took the position that the elections were not fully transparent, and proceeded too quickly. The NGO Coalition complained that there was no practical way for the NGOs or the public to vet the candidates. Following the statement and growing controversies regarding Mr. Barczyk, the Polish Parliament decided to defer the vote by two weeks before the matter would come to the floor again.

By that time, the NGO Coalition obtained an official document from the Ministry of Justice on the career track of Mr. Barczyk. It became apparent that he failed to submit full and precise information to the Polish Parliament (and to general public) as regards his judicial career. He claimed to have been a judge in 1974-1982. In fact, between 1974 and 1980, he sat on the bench only as a not-yet-tenured candidate-judge (asesor sądowy), who had the power to adjudicate cases but was not fully independent, and who was not a judge under the law.

Second, it appeared that in 1977 he was dismissed from the position of the candidate-judge due to insufficient skills in dealing with civil cases.

Mr. Barczyk has provided the Coalition with substantive information on himself and agreed to take part in the debate to be organized by the Coalition two days before the vote at the Parliament.

Professor Pawłowicz submitted the information but refused to take part in the debate.

On 2 March 2010, Mr. Barczyk withdrew. In the press release, among other claims, he asserted that this decision had resulted from a series unprecedented, political manipulations and attacks by the journalist who had been covering the election process for „Gazeta Wyborcza”.

In the statement of 3 March 2010, the NGO Coalition noted the lack of grounds for accusations advanced by Mr. Barczyk, and welcomed the withdrawal of his candidacy. The Coalition complained that the election process never saw significant interest from the public or from the media, and that the political system (even the opposition) failed to apply adequate scrutiny in the vetting process. In the opinion of the NGO Coalition, the method of election calls for improvement. In particular, more time and resources need to be devoted to verifying professional and ethical credentials of the candidates. Second, academia and the legal profession should play a larger role in the election.

On 4 March 2010, the majority in the Polish Parliament voted against the appointment of Professor Krystyna Pawłowicz as a justice in the Constitutional Tribunal. Thus, new elections are due, and there is one vacancy at the Tribunal.

If not for the monitoring, probably Mr. Kazimierz Barczyk would have been appointed to the Constitutional Tribunal. The successful effort by the NGO Coalition and “Gazeta Wyborcza”demonstrates that public scrutiny should and can be brought into the election process, and that it can have positive effects on the composition of top level judicial bodies. At the same time, we realized again that the political class, the legal profession, NGOs, and the academia in Poland need to step up and play an active role in the vetting of candidates.