It is not often that the reason for a judgment arouses more interest than the verdict itself. Only a few people remember the sentence for bribery of an outstanding Polish heart surgeon, but all observers of public life are able to see judge Igor Tuleya, who in a flash, with a carelessly strewn chain gives reasons – reasons which are de facto a judgment on the model of the Poland’s functioning in the years 2005-2006.
Against the backdrop of a fight with corruption and a moral revolution undertaken by Law and Justice, the governing party, a well-known cardiac surgeon was arrested. His arrest was filmed, and the contents of his cabinet, which contained a collection of exquisite spirits as well as fountain pens, – gifts from patients and their families – were presented to the public. We got to know a lot of details of his personal and professional life, such as marriage problems or high demands on the collaborators. What is most remarkable in that case is that immediately after arresting also Zbigniew Ziobro spoke, the then Polish Minister of Justice, current MEP. He said the memorable words – ‘No one will ever be deprived of life by this man’. In the first announcements about what the indictment will be, both the investigator and head of the Central Anti-corruption Bureau, which was set up specifically for anti-corruption institutions, brought up the most serious charges, including murder. In total, the defendant was accused of committing more than 40 crimes, including sexual harassment and bullying.
Six years after the first accusations, the judge found Mirosław Garlicki guilty of taking financial benefits rejecting all other charges. At the same time he pointed out how much the state was involved in the preparation and conducting of investigation. By the time of the investigation, a number of agents had been working under cover, one of whom called “big agent Tom” (a CBA officer who controversially had been working out deputy Beata Sawicka, currently member of the Law and Justice, deputy Tomasz Kaczmarek) had seduced the nurse to get to the hospital medical records of patients. Besides, the operational work of CBA in which over 50 people were involved, the judge was also offended by investigation methods used against the witnesses – interviewing elderly people at night, showing evidence and suggesting its purpose or origin to the visually impaired, and finally threatening witnesses that if they don’t make incriminating testimony against the accused, they won’t be released and they will see their close ones die. The comparison of those methods by judge Igor Tuleya to those that were used during the Stalinist period aroused the biggest controversy.
According to the discussion about the case, “Dr. G.”, who in journalistic clutter turned into the case of “judge Tuleya” there are questions about the economics of law, the scope of the judge’s freedom of speech and the effects of the fight against corruption by the Fourth Republic (to stress the identity and moral renewal under their state governance, Law and Justice determined Poland 2005-2007 in this way). To say that corruption is like a cancer that destroys public life is a truism. Everyone admits that we should fight against it. But when the judge deconstructed CBA’s agents working methods, we should consider the effectiveness of extensive action on such a large scale.
The prosecution was based on 40 documented charges that were worked out by state officers called to fight crime. The maximum penalty which prosecutors are awaiting is 8 years of imprisonment. After 117 trials and questioning of 700 witnesses, the accused is convicted and the suspended sentence decreed – 1 year imprisonment for taking 72.000 PLN bribes in total through 5 years with 23 not proven charges. It all means that this giant state machine was started for nothing.
Giving gifts to doctors is a common practice in Poland and we should remember that it’s demoralizing for both, the doctor and the patient. Because the doctor should get paid for their work, and the possible appreciation of the patient should only have a symbolic dimension. A patient who goes to hospital in the belief that all doctors are corrupt is not going to risk his or her health and to the best of their ability will try to get “better treatment”. To change these practices we need civic education, showing what the consequences of corruption at the micro- and the macroeconomic levels are and fighting frauds at the stage of early socialization (it is common that the teacher knows that students are cheating, but turns a blind eye). However, take a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, and this ultimately proved to be the case of “Dr. G.”, a grotesque, and puts to shame ideas of transparency and the fight against corruption.
After delivering the judgment on Miroslaw G., judge Igor Tuleya became a hero for a few days in the collective imagination. Those who did not agree with his criticism of CBA actions accused him of being biased, there were even voices of disciplinary responsibility. Although the sentence itself did not raise any controversy, it’s been widely discussed if the judge is allowed to comment on the current case. According to the Polish constitution, the judge cannot deem public activities incompatible with the principles of the independence of courts and judges. In fact, it is an unusual situation when the judge after passing the sentence on behalf of the Republic of Poland, with the chain with the image of the Polish national emblem on the chest, gives justification which criticizes the institutions established by the legislature (meaning that the judiciary criticizes the executive appointed by the legislature chosen by the sovereign, the nation). A few media reports from the courtroom showed the judges who use hermetic language referring to the rules and case law. Rarely was anything unclear, therefore, how could it stir emotions?
Terminated by judge Tuleya’s criticism of the state’s actions against the citizens (both the accused and the witnesses), and especially comparing these activities to those which were used during Stalinism, it can be assessed at the level of legal and moral. From a legal point of view, interpreting the judgment is part of the justification provided in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Its purpose is a brief presentation to both sides of the proceeding and also to the public opinion, as long as the procedure is not confidential, what evidence convinced the judge to adopt a particular decision. The judge detailing the operating methods of CBA, effectively argued why the court found the testimony of the witnesses unreliable or acquired in violation of the law.
Saying aloud that a democratic state’s departments operate in a manner reminiscent of the services in a totalitarian state in this context is not so much journalism as moral evaluation.
In making such an assessment, Igor Tuleya exposed himself to the criticism of politicians and journalists’ interference in his private life. If he had the foresight and had expected that, we should congratulate him on the courage and enjoy the cut ethics program at the Polish law school, which is bearing fruit.
Stories in Poland are always a little grotesque and paradox. Comparison with Stalinism hurt CBA’s officers the most, those who coded the operation against Doctor “G” used a cryptonym “Dr. Mengele”.