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An image of scales is pictured on a pillar of the Supreme Court in Warsaw, Poland October 23, 2019. Photo by REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Poland’s president appoints new head of embattled Supreme Court

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish President Andrzej Duda on Monday appointed a judge backed by the right-wing ruling party to be the new head of the Supreme Court, marking apparent victory in years of government efforts to take control of the court.

The new head, Malgorzata Manowska, 55, is also head of the state-run National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution. She is under disciplinary investigation for keeping the school job after being appointed to the Supreme Court in 2018.

The school itself is also under criminal investigation after personal data of its employees, including judges and prosecutors, was leaked.

Manowska also served as deputy justice minister in 2007, when the Law and Justice party was previously in power.

On winning power again in 2015, the party started to make deep changes to the justice system, saying they were needed to put an end to the legacy of the communist era. The moves are gradually putting the judiciary under political control.

Monday’s appointment was announced by Duda’s spokesman, Blazej Spychalski on Twitter. A formal ceremony is still pending. Manowska was selected from five candidates proposed by the court.

Critics said there were procedural flaws in the process of choosing Manowska for 1st President of the Supreme Court that will weaken her position. One of them was a lack of a formal court resolution naming her and other candidates.

The former head of the top constitutional court, Andrzej Zoll, said Duda was “taking into account the ruling party’s interests more than the interest of the state.”

The previous court head, Malgorzata Gersdorf, who had resisted government pressure and efforts to make her leave early, retired last month after completing her six-year term.

Duda also appointed Judge Michal Laskowski, who served as the top court’s spokesman under Gersdorf, to head the court’s Criminal Chamber.

Laskowski said he was not sure he would accept the appointment which he saw as Duda’s attempt to balance the situation at the court, which is deeply divided over the changes the government is making there and in the whole justice system.

He said all effort should be made to prevent the Supreme Court from becoming “another body that fulfills political will.”

The government’s moves to take control of the Supreme Court have led the European Union to threaten sanctions on the government.

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