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Judge Igor Tuleya reinstated and… again removed from adjudicationread all August 8th, 2022
Egyptian Human Rights Lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer and Polish Initiative “Wolne Sądy” Selected Recipients of the 2022 UIA/LexisNexis Rule of Law Awardread all July 22nd, 2022
We are a group of Polish lawyers who, on the wave of civil protests in defence of independence of the judiciary, launched the informal initiative #FreeCourts in July 2017.
The core of the #FreeCourts initiative is the four lawyers who founded the group and are the originators and performers of all its activities, events and court cases, the initiative is involved: Sylwia Gregorczyk-Abram, Maria Ejchart-Dubois, Paulina Kieszkowska-Knapik i Michał Wawrykiewicz.
Since the very beginning of the crisis we focus on opposing the violation of the separation of powers, the rule of law and the constitutional order by the ruling majority in Poland. Our idea was to record short videos, which were published on social media, about what the essence of the independence of the judiciary and judicial independence is and why it is so important for every citizen.
We invited famous people to appear in the films – actors, lawyers, doctors, journalists, artists – who presented the essence of the above issue, based on examples from everyday life. Our videos have spread widely on the Internet, sometimes reaching several million recipients.
The initiative than have begun to publish (and it is still the case today) films including expert comments and appeals in relation to current events, laws adopted, violations of the rule of law, judgments, activities of the European Union institutions. We have published around 1,000 materials – clips, infographics, debates, live broadcasts, studio programs and podcasts. Nearly 80 thousand people are observing #FreeCourts fanpage on Facebook.read more
As professionals, realizing the significance of harmful changes introduced in the Polish legal system, leading to the politicization of the independent courts, we undertake numerous activities aimed to legally educate our fellow citizens on the rule of law.
We actively participate in legislative process in parliament as experts or civic critics of the proposed solutions in the judiciary. We participated, among others in the work of the parliamentary teams for the Constitutional Order and the Judiciary Reform, as well as the Senate team developing the draft law implementing the CJEU judgment in the case of A.K. of 19 November 2019.
Since 2017, we have been co-organisers of dozens of demonstrations and protests in defense of the rule of law and repressed judges, including the action “Europe, do not let go”, i.e. an appeal to the European Commission to refer a complaint to the Court of Justice of the European Union (which was finally submitted and resulted in application of a interim measures) in the case of unlawful retirement of Supreme Court judges over 65 years of age by the authorities.
We were the co-initiators of the Justice Defence Committee (KOS) in 2018, the organisation of the most important Polish NGOs and judges’ associations that represents and helps repressed by the authorities for defending the rule of law and European standards in the judiciary judges of the ordinary courts and judges of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court.
We appear in the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg in proceedings initiated by the preliminary ruling requests regarding the independence of the judiciary, including with regard to the National Council of the Judiciary. These are key proceedings essential for the protection of the rule of law not only in Poland, but throughout Europe.
We successfully handled the famous case of the “LGBT-free zone” stickers published by “Gazeta Polska” before the court.
We represented prof. Małgorzata Gersdorf, former First President of the Supreme Court, in the trial against Stanisław Piotrowicz from the Law and Justice party, who called judges “thieves” and also represented prof. Wojciech Sadurski in a well-known case regarding freedom of speech, sued by Law and Justice for calling them an organised criminal group.
The #FreeCourts initiative is the originator and is involved in the project called “Constitutional Week” (organised by Association pro memoria Professor Zbigniew Hołda), which takes place every six months (since 2016) in schools throughout Poland. Each annual edition of the project engages around 600 lawyers, who conduct classes on governance, constitutional issues and matters related to the European Union for approximately 30.000 children in over 700 schools.
The founders of #FreeCourts initiative also regularly present the position of the Polish legal community on the government’s activities leading to the demise of the rule of law in Poland, in Brussels, in the EU institutions. In Poland, we meet with diplomatic representatives of the EU countries to present the above-mentioned issues. In addition, we regularly comment on matters related to the Polish and European judiciary in the foreign press.
#FreeCourts initiative received numerous awards for its public activity. In 2018 we were awarded with the Teresa Torańska Newsweek award, in 2019 with the Anna Laszuk TOK FM radio award for “exceptional impact on reality”. We received The European Citizens’ Prize for 2020 awarded by the European Parliament for expressing values enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
Sylwia Gregorczyk-Abram is an attorney at law, mostly involving strategic litigation. She has worked at Clifford Chance in Warsaw for 13 years.
She is a co-creator of the civic initiative “Free Courts” and the Justice Defence Committee. Since April 2016, she has been an NGO Relations Coordinator at the Warsaw Bar Association. She is a member of the Board of the Association pro memoria Professor Zbigniew Hołda, originator and coordinator of the “Constitution Week” project. She is the co-author of the book: “Constitution. Rule of law. Judicial power. Current problems of the third power in Poland”
In her pro bono work, she has pursued a mission of supporting the development of a civic society in Poland. In 2016, Sylwia was awarded the title of pro bono lawyer of the year. As part of her work for the Justice Defence Committee, she represents Supreme Court and Supreme Administrative Court judges of over 65 years of age in proceedings with the objective to prevent their removal from active duty pursuant to the 2017 Act on the Supreme Court.
She also represents clients before the CJEU in proceedings initiated by preliminary rulings regarding the independence of the judiciary.
Maria Ejchart-Dubois is a human rights lawyer. She has been working for the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights – the largest NGO in Poland – for nearly 20 years. Within HFHR she has been coordinating various legal programs and working as a trainer and expert in human rights, both in Poland and abroad.
She is a member of the Social Council at the Ombudsman Office which supports Ombudsman in performing statutory tasks and co-chair of the Expert Committee of the National Preventive Mechanism.
Since 2015 she has been the President of the Management Board of the Association pro memoria Professor Zbigniew Hołda. She is a co-founder of the #FreeCourts Initiative. Since 2018 she has been coordinating the activities of the Justice Defence Committee (KOS), which was established in 2018 as an agreement of 13 leading NGOs operating in the area of the protection of human rights and the rule of law, as well as organisations associating judges and prosecutors. Within KOS, he represents repressed judges before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg.
Paulina Kieszkowska-Knapik, a member of Warsaw Bar. She specialises in healthcare law, especially the Pharmaceutical Law, the Reimbursement Act and the Act on Medical Activity. Recommended for many years by Polish (Rzeczpospolita and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna) and international (Chambers Europe, Who’s Who, PLC Which Lawyer) rankings as the best specialist in pharmaceutical law in Poland.
Paulina Kieszkowska-Knapik is also a co-founder of the Lege Pharmaciae Foundation, a non-governmental organisation formed to analyse and hold a public debate on defects in legal regulations in the healthcare sector. Paulina Kieszkowska-Knapik works with the Civic Legislation Forum at the Stefan Batory Foundation on the introduction of European lawmaking standards in Poland. She advises patient organisations pro bono, including the Polish Coalition of Cancer Patient Organisations, the Alivia Foundation and the Federation of Polish Patients.
She is a member of the Forum for Dialogue. One of the initiator and organiser of the #solidarityintruth action. Member of the #WolneSądy (#FreeCourts) initiative defending independence of the Polish judiciary.
A winner of the title “Female advocate of the year 2017” for her pro bono and civic activity.
Michał Wawrykiewicz is an attorney at law. He has been managing a practice in Warsaw since 2003. He specializes among others in constitutional law, European law and human rights law. He has been involved in the defence of the rule of law in Poland since the beginning of the constitutional crisis in 2015.
An expert of parliamentary working teams on Constitutional Governance and the Rule of Law, as well as on the Reform of the Judiciary, author of numerous opinions for the Parliamentary Analyses Bureau on legal acts regarding the judiciary. He was also an expert of the LIBE parliamentary committee (in the European Parliament) during the preparation of the report and during the hearing in the EP on the rule of law in Poland. He is a co-author of the book entitled “The Constitution. The rule of law. Judicial authority. Current problems of the third authority in Poland”, which describes breaches of the rule of law and the defence activities taken up by legal and civic circles.
He jointly established the civic initiative #FreeCourts and was one of the initiators of the Justice Defence Committee (KOS) in 2018. Within KOS, he represents repressed judges of the ordinary courts and judges of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court aged over 65 in proceedings intended to block their removal from active service under the Act on the Supreme Court of 2017. He appears on behalf of the judges of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court before the Courts of Justice of the European Union in Luxemburg.
Michał Wawrykiewicz: Grozi nam niewyobrażalny chaos w sądach. Chaos, który zafundowali nam rządzący [Interview]
Michał Wawrykiewicz: Zjednoczona Prawica nie zamierza iść na kompromis z Unią Europejską [Interview]
Mieliście szansę oddać prawdziwy hołd bohaterce powstania warszawskiego. A tego nie zrobiliście [Michał Wawrykiewicz]
Watch the law! Because the law is looking at you, even if you did not know that. Watch the law! Because the law is not just legislation, it is also people and institutions affecting your life. Watch the law! Because we all need to defend ourselves against lawlessness.listen on tokfm.pl
We founded the Free Courts Foundation in 2020
The objective of the Foundation is to support initiatives and educational activities in defence of the rule of law. The founders are Maria Ejchart-Dubois, Sylwia Gregorczyk-Abram, Paulina Kieszkowska-Knapik and Michał Wawrykiewicz.
The Free Courts Foundation is entered into the National Court Register under the number 0000829554.
Bank account: 06 1090 2851 0000 0001 4444 0763
SWIFT CODE: WBKPPLPP
ul. Wiejska 12/9