Polish President Andrzej Duda on Friday appointed Supreme Court judge Aleksander Stepkowski, as the new acting head of the country’s highest court following the resignation of the previous appointee Kamil Zaradkiewicz.
Zaradkiewicz was appointed acting head at the end of April but stepped down after the general assembly of Supreme Court judges failed to agree on their selection of five candidates for the permanent post of permanent Supreme Court head.
The Supreme Court has been racked by internal division along partisan lines.
So-called old judges, appointed ahead of extensive judicial reforms introduced by governing party Law and Justice (PiS), accused Zaradkiewicz of refusing to put to vote the motions they submitted.
Among the motions was a push to exclude from deliberations judges from a controversial disciplinary chamber, due to its uncertain legal status under Polish and European law.
Some new judges accused longer-serving colleagues of obstructing proceedings. Incoming acting head Stepkowski, also a new judge, has defended Zaradkiewicz’s actions.
Judicial reforms and court independence came to the fore of Poland’s public life after PiS came to power in late 2015.
The party started the implementation of broad judicial reforms, arguing that the inefficient system needs a comprehensive overhaul.
However, critics argue the reforms have been an attempt, sometimes unconstitutional, to control the judiciary.
Critics say that two main judicial institutions in the country, the Constitutional Tribunal and the National Council of the Judiciary, are already under strict political influence of the governing party and fear the same might happen to the Supreme Court.