Populist Jurisprudence? Examining Selected Case Law of the Polish Constitutional Court After 2016

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Since the parliamentary elections in 2015 and the subsequent change in the personal composition of the Polish Constitutional Court, this institution is in crisis. The Court, once one of the main guardians of the rule of law and a model for the constitutional judiciary in the region of Central and Eastern Europe, is criticized. Judges are accused of lack of proper appointment and party subordination. Court activities are perceived as part of illiberal democracy and populist constitutionalism, that is, introducing majority rule by “switching off” the checks and balances mechanisms by democratically elected parties and groups. However, what is often overlooked in this type of analysis is the more internal perspective of jurisprudence and legal reasoning. What kind of decisions does the “populist” constitutional court issue? How does it justify its decisions? The paper will discuss three cases of the Polish Constitutional Court. The first case is from 2017 and concerns the right of assembly in connection with the introduction of a special category of “cyclical assemblies”. The second, of 2019, is the so-called “printer case”, which concerned the possibility of refusing to provide a service for reasons of conscience (a refusal to print a poster because of opposition to “LGBT promotion”). The third case is the controversial ruling narrowing access to abortion from 2020. The aim of the analysis is to answer the question of whether the current jurisprudence of the Court is the breaking or continuation of the previously dominant liberal constitutionalism. I will be particularly interested in whether these decisions introduce any changes at the level of possible rights holders (legal subjects), the introduction of a new or changed scope of existing rights, and new ways of resolving conflicts between rights.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHague Journal on the Rule of Law
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Mar 2024

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