Poland: Court vacancy disputed by chief justice holding seat

Polish President Andrzej Duda has announced that the country's Supreme Court needs a new president even though the justice holding the job insists her term is not over and her colleagues support her.

Duda co-authored recent regulations that require the high court's judges to retire at age 65. He posted a formal notice this week announcing 11 Supreme Court vacancies, a figure that means First President Malgorzata Gersdorf's position was included.

The president's aide, Andrzej Dera, confirmed on Thursday that Duda is seeking another judge to fill the Supreme Court presidency held by the 65-year-old Gersdorf since 2014.

The Supreme Court is central to Poland's dispute with European Union leaders who say that changes the right-wing government has made to the judicial system threaten the country's rule of law.

The European Court of Justice, the EU's top court, is examining the revised retirement age for justices, who previously retired at the age of 70.

The Polish Constitution sets the Supreme Court president's term at six years, which in Gersdorf's case is until May 2020. She said Thursday she must abide by that and remain on the bench.

"According to the Constitution, I hold my post through April 30, 2020, and nothing can change that unless I die. But I'm feeling very well," Gersdorf said on Radio RMF FM.

She says that if a new first president is appointed, she will not recognize her successor's authority, but will "not fight with him."

Duda plans to appoint new judges to the court in coming weeks.

Poland's EU-skeptical government insists the shakeup and the forced retirements are intended to make the justice system more efficient and independent.

Critics say the government is removing experienced judges and replacing them with its own loyalists.