JUDGES are a pampered caste of crooks, according to Poland’s governing Law and Justice party (PiS). On July 3rd its new law on the Supreme Court took effect, the culmination of a series of judicial changes pushed through by the party. The European Union has urged the government to back down, warning that it is undermining the rule of law. Poland represents a vital battle for Brussels. If the EU cannot defend its fundamental values, including the rule of law, within its own borders, other illiberal leaders will surely take note.
The latest judicial reform lowers the retirement age from 70 to 65 for judges on the Supreme Court, which, among other responsibilities, rules on the validity of elections. As the law took effect on July 3rd, more than a third of its 72 judges were forced to step down. Some have asked the president for permission to stay on for the rest of their six-year terms, but critics fear the only judges to be granted that permission will be the pliant ones.