An Oxford symposium on the Polish constitutional crisis sparks public debate

A symposium on the Polish constitutional crisis and institutional self-defence that took place in Oxford on 9 May became a major topic of interest in Polish public debate. The Symposium was organised by Mikołaj Barczentewicz under the auspices of the Programme for the Foundations of Law and Constitutional Government at the Faculty of Law.

The main purpose of the Symposium was to reflect, from a theoretical perspective, on the controversial events around the Polish Constitutional Tribunal since mid-2015. Four prominent Polish legal theorists presented their contributions followed by comments from Oxford's Nick Barber, Richard Ekins, and Alison Young.  The Symposium was live-streamed on the internet and all the video recordings are publicly available (see below). The videos have since been played almost 20,000 times.

Some of the remarks by one of the Polish contributors, Professor Lech Morawski, during the second panel (video below), chaired by Oxford's Timothy Endicott, caused a significant controversy in Poland after being picked up by the media on Thursday, 11 May.

Professor Morawski was elected by the current Polish Parliament to the Polish Constitutional Tribunal and is recognised as a judge of the Tribunal by its current leadership as well as by the Polish government. However, as another contributor - Professor Marcin Matczak - made clear in a statement during the Symposium, many Polish lawyers believe that Professor Morawski was elected to a seat that was not vacant and hence is not a judge.

As has been widely reported by major Polish TV stations, internet portals, and newspapers, Professor Morawski voiced during the Symposium some controversial views on the role of a judge of a constitutional court in public (and party-political) discourse, as well as regarding the substance of what he presented to be the current Polish government's position, and concerning the problems of the Polish constitutional order.