Table of Contents: I. Introduction. – II. The broad interpretation of Art. 19 TEU. – II.1. An ideal holistic approach to judicial independence. – II.2. The broadening of the material scope of Art. 19 TEU. – III. The paradox of the limited effects of the case law on Art. 19 TEU. – III.1. An unlikely limit: denying Art. 19 TEU direct effect. – III.2. A controversial existent limit: Art. 19 TEU and case law in Minister for Justice and Equality (Défaillances du système judiciaire). – IV. Final remarks.
Abstract: In 2019, the Court of Justice has ruled in an innovative case on the protection of the independence of Member States’ judiciaries. In two judgments, delivered in June and November, the Court declared that several statutes amending the organisation of the Polish judicial system infringed the second subparagraph of Art. 19, para. 1, TEU because they did not respect judicial independence. This case law relies on two key legal arguments: an “ideal” holistic approach to judicial independence and the broadening of the material scope of Art. 19 TEU (see Court of Justice: judgment of 24 June 2019, case C-619/18, Commission v. Poland (Independence of the Supreme Court) [GC]; judgment of 5 November 2019, case C-192/18, Commission v. Poland (Independence of ordinary courts) [GC]). Both arguments may invite us to think that this case law is boundless. This Insight considers if some limits should nevertheless apply.
Keywords: judicial independence – rule of law – Art. 19 TEU – Poland – Art. 2 TEU – scope of EU law.
* Full Professor of International Law, University of Granada, firstname.lastname@example.org.