Polish National Judge Named Global Jurist of the Year by Northwestern Pritzker Law

02.02.2024

By Shanice Harris

Social Justice Awards Bluhm Legal Clinic
Judge Igor Tuleya
The award will recognize Judge Igor Tuleya’s bravery as one of few judges to openly criticize the behavior of the prosecution in the Polish court system and speak out against the Polish government in the face of retaliation that caused him personal and professional harm.

Judge Igor Tuleya recognized for his commitment to judicial integrity and independence

Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Center for International Human Rights (CIHR) will award its ninth Global Jurist of the Year Award to Judge Igor Tuleya, a district court judge in Warsaw, Poland, whose work embodies a commitment to upholding human rights, rule of law and a dedication to holding the Polish judiciary system accountable.

The award will recognize Tuleya’s bravery as one of few judges to openly criticize the behavior of the prosecution in the Polish court system and speak out against the Polish government in the face of retaliation that caused him personal and professional harm. He will be presented the award at a ceremony and dinner at the Law School on March 7. The Center for International Human Rights is sponsoring the event.

“The annual Global Jurist of the Year Award honors a sitting judge who has shown commitment to human rights and the rule of law in the face of adversity,” said Juliet Sorensen, clinical professor of law at Northwestern’s Center for International Human Rights. “Judge Tuleya’s commitment to judicial integrity and independence in the face of persecution embodies what the Center for International Human Rights seeks to recognize with this award.”

From 2016-2018, the Polish government implemented legislation amending judicial proceedings. The most criticized new law was popularly referred to as a “muzzle” law. It empowered a disciplinary chamber to bring proceedings against judges for questioning the ruling party’s platform — the Law and Justice Party at the time. The law also allowed the Polish government to fire judges, or cut their salaries, for speaking out against legislation aimed at the court, or for questioning the legitimacy of new court appointees.

In opposition to the new rules, Tuleya appeared on public television and submitted a request to the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling on the new disciplinary regime for judges. In 2017, Tuleya permitted media to record the proceedings of a high-profile trial. The political case involved the lawfulness of a vote convened by the Speaker of the lower house of Parliament, who was a member of the Law and Justice Party, the party who implemented the “muzzle” law.

That decision was soon the subject of criminal proceedings, and Tuleya was accused of disciplinary misconduct. Prosecutors reported Tuleya to the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court to have his judicial immunity lifted, claiming he disclosed information to unauthorized individuals when he allowed media access.

Tuleya’s immunity was lifted, and he was suspended from the judiciary. In 2022, the Disciplinary Chamber was replaced by the Chamber of Professional Liability — after the EU determined it violated democratic rule in Tuleya’s case. The Chamber of Professional Liability determined that there was no reasonable suspicion that Tuleya had committed the offense that led to his suspension, and the European Court of Human Rights reviewed the case and found a host of violations in the process, ordering that Tuleya be reinstated.

Past recipients of the CIHR’s Global Jurist Award include Hon. Miguel Angel Galvez of Guatemala; the women judges of Afghanistan; Justice Grace Mumbi Ngugi of the High Court of Kenya; Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada; Justice Dikgang Moseneke of the South African Constitutional Court; and Justice Shireen Avis Fisher of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.


This article originally appeared in Northwestern Now.