Head of Poland's top court vows to resist removal

The head of Poland's Supreme Court vowed Tuesday to resist the government's steps to remove her from the post under new retirement regulations that she has called a "purge."

Malgorzata Gersdorf insisted that her term runs until 2020, as guaranteed by the constitution. Yet, she said she is expecting President Andrzej Duda will tell her to go during a meeting later in the day. Nevertheless, she wants to show up for work on Wednesday.

A new law adopted by the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party is forcing Gersdorf and many other Supreme Court judges aged 65 and above to retire, as of Wednesday. The retirement age was lowered from 70.

The change affects 27 out of the court's 73 judges. Some of them have asked Duda for an extension under the new regulations. Gersdorf did not, arguing that her term continues, but she is not expecting Duda to share that view.

"My term as the Supreme Court head is being brutally cut, even though it is written into the constitution," Gersdorf said in a lecture to law students.

The law has drawn condemnation from the European Union, which has opened sanctioning procedures that could potentially strip Poland of its EU voting rights. There has been no apparent progress from numerous meetings and discussions.

"The damage (from the new law) is very serious," Gersdorf said. "To a large extent the independence of Poland's constitutional court has been destroyed."

"We can speak of a crisis of the rule of law in Poland, of a lack of respect for the constitution," she said.

The government insists it is improving Poland's justice system, saying it is inefficient and controlled by a "caste" of judges, many of whom were active in the communist era.

The overhaul of the judicial system has drawn repeated street protests and criticism from the opposition. More protests are planned this week.

Democracy champion and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa has said he will come to Warsaw Wednesday to defend the Supreme Court.

"I will want to do this in a peaceful way but if anyone, including the police, stands in my way, I will fight and defend myself," Walesa wrote on his Facebook account, saying he has a legal firearm that he can use to defend himself.