By Piotr Rakowski and Robert Rybicki
Update by Filip Pazderski
Filip Pazderski is the Senior Policy Analyst and Head of the Civil Society and Democracy Program of the Institute of Public Affairs in Poland (a non-partisan think-tank established in 1995), where he works on issues concerning civil society, civic education, public participation and democratic institutions He is an author of numerous research papers, expert opinions and reports on these subjects. He has MA degree in law and MA degree in sociology from the University of Warsaw. He has completed European Master’s Degree Program in Human Rights and Democratization (E.MA) in Venice, Italy. Currently he is finishing his doctoral thesis at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. He is a co-author of the long-term policy on volunteering development in Poland prepared by the Polish Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. Since 2016 he has been responsible for preparation of USAID’s CSOs Sustainability Index report for Poland. He has done research and issued reports for the Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the Chancellery of the Senate of the Republic of Poland, and Polish Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. Since 2003 he has been active in civil society building and the promotion of human rights and democratic standards while cooperating with several different NGOs in Poland and abroad.
Published March/April 2020
(Previously updated by Piotr Rakowski in August/September 2010)
Table of Contents
- 1. The Polish Legal System
- 2. Sources of Polish Law
- 3. The Court System
- 4. Parliament
- 5. President
- 6. Government
- 7. Ombudsman
- 8. Commissioner for Children's Rights
- 9. Other Independent Organs and Institutions
- 10. Law Associations, Lawyers, and Law Firms
- 11. Poland and the European Union
- 12. Legal Research in Poland
Poland is a republic formed on a democratic basis. The Republic of Poland is based on Montesquieu’s separation of powers principle. The legislative power is vested in the Parliament consisting of the lower house called the Sejm and the upper house called the Senate. The executive power is vested in the President of Poland and the Council of Ministers and the judicial power is vested in courts and tribunals.
The Republic of Poland is a unitary state. According to the administrative reform of 1998, the country is divided into 16 provinces/voivodships (“województwa”). The provinces/voivodships are divided into “poviats” (currently 380, what includes 66 cities with poviat rights), and then further to the basic administrative units: communes (“gminas”, currently 2,477). As of 1st May 2004, the Republic of Poland is a member of the European Union.
The sources of Polish law are divided into two categories: universally binding law and internal law. According to the latest Constitution of 2 April 1997 (with some amendments afterwards), the sources of universally binding Polish law are:
- the Constitution itself as the supreme law of the land,
- the statute (ustawa),
- ratified international agreement and
- regulation (rozporządzenie)
In addition to these sources, it has to be mentioned as well that the enactments issued in the course of operation of administrative organs constitute the universally binding law in the territory of the organ that issued such enactments (local law).
To come into force, statutes, regulations and enactments of local laws have to be published. The statutes also regulate the conditions for promulgations of ratified international agreements and other international agreements; however, in general they are published in the same manner as statutes. The aforementioned acts are published in the Official Journal of Laws of the Republic of Poland (Dziennik Ustaw Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej).
In addition, there are a number of local law journals that are published in provinces’ official journals. All other acts constitute a part of internal law. They bind only the organs of public administration and self-government, which are subordinated, to the issuing organs and organizational units. The examples of such acts are resolutions (uchwała) adopted by the Sejm, Senate and the Council of Ministers, orders (zarządzenie) issued by the President of the Republic of Poland, the President of the Council of Ministers and ministers, the acts of local law that are not universally binding and non-ratified international agreements.
These acts are published sometimes in the Journal of Laws of the Republic of Poland (Dziennik Ustaw), in most of the cases in the Official Journal of the Republic of Poland (Monitor Polski. Dziennik Urzędowy Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej) and in the local official journals.
The additional source of rights and obligations in Poland is the European Union law – the separate, unique legal system with its own sources, direct application and direct effect in particular. After the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon (1st December 2009), the sources of EU law are primary (founding, acceding and amending treaties and general legal rules) and secondary ones (regulations, directives and decisions). The international agreements where the EU and Member States are the parties may also be the source of EU law though their exact position (whether they are primary or secondary ones) is not very clear and decided by the doctrine.
EU law, in order to be applicable and implemented in the Republic of Poland, needs to be interpreted into Polish and published in the Polish version of the Official Journal of the European Union. The other informative source of i.e. EU law in Poland is the European Information and Documentation Centre that is run by the Sejm Chancellery.
Constitution: The history of Polish constitutionalism provides a number of such acts issued in Poland. The latest one is the above-mentioned Constitution of 2 April 1997, upheld by the National Assembly, i.e. the Sejm and the Senate acting together.
An English version of the current Polish Constitution may be found on the Sejm (Lower House of Parliament) page.
Statutes: A statute is a basic act of the universally binding law in Poland. The statutes are adopted by the Sejm, initiated by the proposals presented by the Deputies. The right of legislative initiative also belongs to a group of at least 100,000 citizens, and also by at least 15 Members of the Senate, the President or the Council of Ministers.
Treaties: Ratified international agreements possess the force of statute. Once an agreement is published, it becomes a part of the domestic legal system and may be applied directly. Ratification is within the competence of the President of the Republic of Poland.
Some agreements require prior consent before ratification and being expressed in statute. Additionally, when the international agreement delegates the competence of organs of State authority in relation to certain matter to an international organization or international institution, the statute granting such consent is passed by a specific qualified majority of both chambers of Parliament, or by virtue of a successfully run nationwide referendum. In cases where a ratified international agreement contradicts the statute, the agreement prevails. Further, non-ratified international agreements carry authority in accordance with public international law, though they do not become sources of binding law in Poland. They are part of internal law only.
Regulations: Regulations are issued only by those organs that are expressly stated in the Constitution. Moreover, regulations must be issued on the basis of specific authorizations contained in the statute and be purposed to implement the statute. If the regulation is issued without such authorization expressed in the statute, they are formally invalid.
The competent organs to issue the regulations are the President of Republic of Poland, the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister, the National Broadcasting Council, the Chairman of the Committee who is a member of the Council of Ministers, and the minister that manages the relevant area of public administration. This catalogue is expressly regulated; thus, no other administrative body is entitled to issue these instruments.
Local Laws: The acts of local law are binding within territory where the issuing organ exercises its powers. These acts may only be issued on the basis provided in the statute and within the limits prescribed in the statute. In most cases, these acts are issued by local administration and addressed to the people responsible for such organ.
The Polish legal system is based on the continental legal system (civil law tradition). The common courts in Poland are the courts of appeal, provincial courts (okręg) and district courts (rejon). They are competent to hear criminal law cases, civil law cases, family and custody law cases, labor law cases and social insurance cases.
The military courts are the military provincial courts and military unit courts. They have judiciary control within the Polish Army in criminal cases and other cases that were subscribed to them by relevant statutes.
The administrative judiciary belongs to 16 provincial administrative courts adjudicating at first instance and the Supreme Administrative Court (English version of the website is available) controlling the decision issued in the first instance. Together they exercise control over the performance of public administration in a two-instance system. Such control shall also extend to judgments on the conformity to statute of resolutions of organs of local government and normative acts of territorial organs of government administration. Moreover, administrative judiciary deals also with the settlement of jurisdictional disputes between bodies of local government, self-government appeal colleges and between these bodies and government administration bodies.
The Supreme Court is the highest central judicial organ in the Republic of Poland and thus the highest court of appeal. The main tasks of the Supreme Court are to administer justice in Poland, together with the common, administrative and military courts, to consider cessation as a form of extraordinary appeal and to adopt law-interpreting resolutions. It is also responsible for the final recognition of electoral protests and for determining the validity of national parliamentary and presidential elections, as well as the validity of the national referendum and the constitutional referendum. The Supreme Court is also appointed to recognize electoral protests in the elections to the European Parliament. It is also the last instance that in certain cases decides about the loss of the right to funding from the state budget by a given political party.
The Constitutional Tribunal is an organ of the judiciary but remains as a separate body from the court system. The Tribunal is competent to decide the conformity of the issued law with the Constitution, disputes concerning competence between the organs of central administration, the conformity of the political parties’ tasks with the Constitution and to hear constitutional complaints filed by citizens. The English version of the act on Constitutional Tribunal, other related acts and Tribunal’s judgements are provided on the English version of the Constitutional Tribunal web page.
Since the end of 2015, the justice system in Poland has been the subject of lively discussions both domestically and abroad, after the Polish government began adopting amendments to the statutes regulating operation of the most important judicial bodies. These changes affected the Constitutional Tribunal, Supreme Court, National Council of the Judiciary (a constitutional body obliged to uphold the independence of the courts and judges, responsible for appointing judges to the Supreme Court), as well as the system of the common courts. These amendments aimed to increase the Polish executive’s (and legislative’s, since, in reality, it is controlled by the same ruling party) control over the judicial power and centralize the constitutional system in the country (without having constitutional majority in the Parliament). To learn more about the course and nature of these changes, see the opinions of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. Furthermore, cases have been filed at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) at the request of the European Commission alleging Poland violated EU law. There are also cases filed at the CJEU at the request of Polish judges’ for preliminary ruling on the topic. In addition, the European Commission in 2017 invoked Article 7 of the EU Treaty against Poland (decision can be accessed on the Commission’s website). This mechanism has been used for the first time and it threatens to revoke a member state's voting rights. According to the European Commission the judicial reforms imposed by the Polish ruling party posed "a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in Poland,” which is one of the basic principles expressed in art. 2 of the EU Treaty.
This legal dispute started once the government established after elections in late 2015 began taking control of the Constitutional Tribunal by replacing its judges with its own nominees and appointing its own president. These activities were enabled by subsequent amendments to the Act on the Constitutional Tribunal that were adopted from December 2015 through 2016. However, the dispute intensified in the fall of 2017 when the ruling party adopted two laws affecting the Supreme Court and the National Council of the Judiciary (NCJ). The former of these regulations initiated three main changes in the operation of the Supreme Court.
First, Act of 8 December 2017 on the Supreme Court (Journal of Laws of 2018, item 5, as amended) has introduced an extraordinary complaint system allowing the undermining of grossly flawed judgments of common courts within five years after their issuance, and for the first three years of the new law being in force to decisions that became final after October 17, 1997. A closed catalog of public institutions may lodge such complaints and its consideration falls within the competence of the Supreme Court Chamber of Extraordinary Audit and Public Affairs. Second, the system of disciplinary proceedings addressed to judges and representatives of other legal professions was changed by accelerating its course. As part of it a new Disciplinary Chamber in the Supreme Court was established with much autonomy (independent of the president of the Court), with judges receiving earnings of 40% higher than judges from other chambers of the same Court. Third, significant changes were made to the composition of the Supreme Court. The retirement age of the judges of the Court has been reduced from 70 to 65 (although with the option of extension with the consent of the president) and the number of all Supreme Court judges has been increased from 80 to at least 120, which may mean the renewal of half of the composition of the Court. Due to the lowering of the maximum age of judges, these changes also meant that the replacement of the current president of the Supreme Court’s Criminal and Labor Chambers and resignation from the position of the first president of this Court (despite the fact that the length of her term in the office is specified in Polish Constitution). Thus, the powers of the next president would increase significantly.
It is important to read all changes in the composition of the Supreme Court in line with the second amended law – Act of 8 December 2017 amending the act on the National Council of the Judiciary and some other acts (Journal of Laws of 2018, item 3, as amended). The main change concerns the composition of the Council and the method of selecting the majority of its members. In accordance with art. 187.1 of the Polish Constitution, the Council (NCJ) consists of 25 members, 15 of whom are judges of various Polish courts. The remaining part of the NCJ’s composition are four deputies, two senators, the First President of the Supreme Court, the President of the Supreme Administrative Court, the Minister of Justice and a representative of the President of the Republic of Poland. Until now the 15 judicial members were elected by the judges from among representatives of their profession. In contrast, under the newly amended law the judges are elected by the parliament (lower chamber). Candidates for the members of the NCJ elected from among the judges are indicated to the Sejm by groups of at least 2,000 Polish adult citizens or a group of 25 professionally active judges.
During the election of new judicial members of the NCJ in January 2018, the political opposition and majority of legal experts pointed to significant irregularities. First, they identified the lack of transparency. Namely, who supported individual candidates, as lists with the names of judges and citizens supporting individual candidates were not disclosed during voting at the Parliament or to date as of February 2020. As a result, it could not be determined whether each candidate met the criterion of having the required support. According to the political opposition and the majority of legal experts and authorities, this situation undermined the legitimacy of the election of the Council and all subsequent decisions it took thereafter. The Council's competence includes examining and assessing candidates for the office of judge and submitting to the President of Poland applications for the appointment of judges in the Supreme Court, common courts, administrative and military courts and for appointing deputy judges in administrative courts.
This situation has put a majority of the judiciary in Poland on collision track with the executive. In order to solve emerging legal conflicts Polish judges began using the legal mechanisms available to them. Sometimes, this meant that common courts brought legal questions to the Supreme Court of Poland (regarding the interpretation of individual laws). However, because of the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court by the President under the new law and procedure of the NCJ, doubts arose as to the validity of at least part of the composition of the Supreme Court itself. Thus, Polish judges began asking the CJEU for preliminary rulings on the topic.
As of February 2020, the CJEU issued the following decisions concerning Poland:
- On June 24, 2019, as a result of a complaint from the European Commission, the CJEU ruled that the provisions of the Act on the Supreme Court of 2017, which reduce the retirement age (from 70 to 65 years) of judges of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court are contrary to EU law. The CJEU’s ruling was adopted irrespective of the fact these provisions were changed before the judgment of the CJEU. However, the CJEU, by issuing a decision to block this reform in pre-trial proceedings meant that the independence of the Supreme Court judges was largely protected (see Judgment in Case C-619/18).
- On November 5, 2019, after another complaint from the European Commission, the CJEU declared the Polish provisions of 2017 law regarding the retirement age of judges of common courts and prosecutors to be incompatible with the EU law (reduced from 67 to 60 years for women and 65 to men). Even before the verdict these provisions were changed. The CJEU emphasized that the principles authorizing the Minister of Justice to extend the mandate of particular judge after he or she reaches retirement age may raise doubts as to the independence of such a judge from "external factors" (see Judgment in caseC-192/18).
- On November 19, 2019 the CJEU ruled after preliminary questions from Polish judges that the Supreme Court may examine whether the Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Chamber is independent to hear cases related to retirement of the Supreme Court’s judges. The CJEU suggested that it is up to Polish judges themselves to decide on the validity of the new Disciplinary Chamber. CJEU ruled also that if the Supreme Court considers that the Chamber “does not satisfy the requirements of judicial independence under EU law” it should refrain from applying provisions of Polish law related to operation of this Chamber. In addition, the CJEU ruled that the National Council of the Judiciary may propose candidates for judges if it can be considered independent of the legislative and executive authorities. In the same ruling CJEU also asserted “the primacy of EU law” and said that the courts of the EU member state must not refer cases to the judges’ bench without ensuring it is “independent and impartial” (see Judgment in Joined Cases C-585/18, C-624/18 and C-625/18).
Following the latter CJEU’s judgment Polish Supreme Court ruled on the December 5, 2019 that the Disciplinary Chamber did not meet the requirements of independence (see English translation of the Judgment of the Supreme Court of December 5th, 2019, case III PO 7/18). Moreover, the Supreme Court in the justification of the judgment indicated that the new NCJ does not provide sufficient guarantees of independence from the legislative and executive authorities and this is the starting point for assessing whether the Supreme Court Disciplinary Chamber is independent. Since the NCJ "is not an impartial and independent body" its decisions may be subject to annulment. This result may also apply to all appointments of new judges made by this Council and creates a possibility of challenging the judgments provided by such judges.
Moreover, on January 23, 2020, the Supreme Court adopted a resolution of the formation of three combined Chambers: Civil, Criminal and Labor, as well as Social Insurance (see English translation of the Resolution of the formation of the combined Civil Chamber, Criminal Chamber, and Labour Law and Social Security Chamber, case BSA I-4110-1/20). The Court considered the case brought by the First President of the Supreme Court for resolving discrepancies in the interpretation of law appearing in the Supreme Court’s case law. Chambers of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs as well as the Disciplinary one were excluded from this proceeding as they were directly affected by the subject of settlement, since in both of them sit the judges elected by the current NCJ (composed on the grounds of the law amended in December 2017). The Court has resolved that “A court formation is unduly appointed (…) and a court formation is unlawful (…) also where the court formation includes a person appointed to the office of a judge of the Supreme Court on application of the National Council for the Judiciary formed in accordance with the Act of 8 December 2017 amending the Act on the National Council for the Judiciary and certain other Acts.” The same applies to the court formation that includes a person appointed in the same way to the office of a judge of a common court or a military court, if “the defective appointment causes, under specific circumstances, a breach of the standards of independence within the meaning of Article 45(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and Article 6(1) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.”
As a result, there are grounds to question (challenge) the legality of the rulings issued by all courts in the bench composed in the abovementioned way. However, it was also decided that it applies only to the judgments issued by such juries from Friday, January 24, 2020. Thus, the sentences issued so far remain legal. However, there is one exception. The judgments issued with the participation of judges of the Disciplinary Chamber established at the Supreme Court under the Act of 8 December 2017 on the Supreme Court are not legal irrespective of the date of their adoption. The aim for adopting this resolution was to ensure the incontrovertibility of judgments issued by Polish courts (also in front of the courts of other EU member states).
There are also cases still pending before the CJEU against Poland:
- European Commission complaint of October 10, 2019 regarding a new system of disciplinary measures against judges in Poland. The Commission initiated infringement proceedings because the system of disciplinary measures undermines the independence of judges in Poland and does not provide the necessary guarantees to protect judges against political control. According to the opinion of the CJEU’s spokesman that has been already issued, the CJEU cannot rule on the interpretation of EU law regarding the independence of disciplinary proceedings against judges in Poland because the courts’ concerns are only subjective. However, the CJEU while adopting its rulings is not bound by the spokesman's opinion. This case should be resolved in the following months of 2020.
- There are also several dozen preliminary questions from Poland regarding disciplinary proceedings brought by Polish judges, not only in the abstract scope, but also in the context of specific disciplinary proceedings, disciplinary actions taken against judges, their degradation or transfers to different courts. The Polish Ombudsman joined some of these cases. It can be assumed that virtually any disciplinary proceeding, if considered by a common court ready to ask a question, may eventually be sent to the CJEU.
Polish legislative and executive authorities have not decided to propose a law that would resolve the imperfections of the composition of the NCJ and led to solving most of the problems. Instead, they adopted an Act of 20 December 2019 amending the Act - Law on the Structure of Common Courts, the Act on the Supreme Court and some other acts (Journal of Laws of 2020, item 190; English translation of this document can be accessed on the website of the Venice Commission). Among other solutions it introduces disciplinary liability of judges for taking activity or no action that may prevent or significantly impede the functioning of the system of judiciary in the country (and in this way also denying legality of the Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Chamber or new NCJ can be understood). It also introduces penalties for activities by judges that question the effectiveness of the appointment of a judge. Any public activity of judges will also be scrutinized. Moreover, the same amending act changes the procedure for the election of the First President of the Supreme Court by introducing the possibility of selecting the president from among the judges that were already appointed by the current authorities (under the Act of 8 December 2017 on the Supreme Court with further amendments). Critical opinions on this bill were issued by the Venice Commission, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and European Commission (that decided to ask the CJEU to impose interim measures ordering Polish government to suspend the functioning of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court). All these institutions claim that adopting such law could make Polish judges dependent on the executive power, which would violate the EU rule of law. Nevertheless however, this law passed through the parliament and was signed by the president on February 4, 2020. All these changes may increase the conflict of the Polish justice system with EU rules and create a situation in which the judgments by Polish courts are challenged because they conflict with the ruling of the CJEU and in result with the European law (i.e. once in the jury will sit a judge appointed by new NCJ) by the courts in other EU member states. It is worth observing the further development of this situation.
The Parliament was unicameral until 1989. In 1989, after a nationwide referendum, the law was changed and the second chamber i.e., the Senate, was again re-established (the Parliament was also bicameral before the Second World War). The Sejm and the Senate exercise the legislative power in the Republic of Poland.
Sejm (Lower House of Parliament)shares its legislative function with the Senate and exercises control over the activities of the Council of Ministers within the scope specified by the provisions of the Constitution and statutes. There are 460 Deputies of the Sejm. The constitutional term of office is 4 years although there are cases when this term may be shortened, once certain conditions are fulfilled. The Sejm is elected in universal, equal, and direct elections, conducted by secret ballot and based on proportionality method of election.
The Senate (Upper House of Parliament) shares its legislative function with the Sejm. There are 100 members of the Senate. The constitutional term of office is also 4 years, but it is directly connected with the term of the Sejm: the dissolution of lower chamber results in termination Senate’s term of office. The Senate is elected in universal, equal, and direct elections, conducted by secret ballot and based, different from Sejm, on majority method of election.
The President of the Republic of Poland is the supreme representative of the Poland (head of state) and the guarantor of the continuity of State authority. The President is the part of the executive authority, sharing the competencies with the Council of Ministers. The President of the Republic is elected by the nation, in universal, equal and direct elections, conducted by secret ballot.
The Polish government is called the Council of Ministers and it is chaired by the President of the Council of Ministers (commonly known as Prime Minister). The Council of Ministers is appointed by the President of the Republic of Poland. It consists of ministers who govern given areas (branches) of central administration as well as other chairmen of various Committees that were included in the Council of Ministers. It will be also worth visiting the official website of Poland run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to see the main characteristics of the Polish state.
Most of the Ministries and main government agencies have relevant legal provisions in the Polish language, but there are also several acts translated into English. Unfortunately, only few of the ministerial sites are currently translated into English (as for August 2019). The particular websites of the currently existing 19 ministries where, however, rarely the relevant legislation may be found are as follows:
- Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (Polish only)
- Ministry of Climate
- Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (Polish only)
- Ministry of Digital Affairs
- Ministry of Development (Polish only)
- Ministry of National Education (Polish only)
- Ministry of Energy
- Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Policy (Polish only)
- Ministry of Finance
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ministry of Funds and Regional Policy (Polish only)
- Ministry of Health (Polish only)
- Ministry of Infrastructure (Polish only)
- Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration (Polish only)
- Ministry of Justice (Polish only)
- Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation (Polish only)
- Ministry of National Defence
- Ministry of Science and Higher Education
- Ministry of Sport (Polish only)
- Ministry of State Assets (Polish only)
The number and competencies of ministers may change according to the decision of the Prime Minister. The statute on the branches of government administration provides the possibility to merge or divide the competencies of ministers and consequently to limit or expand the list of ministers. In addition, the Chancellery of the Prime Minister has a status close to the ministry. It is a body providing substantive, legal, organizational, technical and office support for the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister, deputy ministers, College for Special Services, the Legislative Council and other central authorities under specific statutes (see below).
There are several central institutions, offices and agencies that constitute a part of public governmental administration. The main tasks and objectives of these bodies are to support the government in performing specific, particular powers. They can be divided as follows.
There are number of central authorities that due to their specific or general competencies are subordinated directly to the Prime Minister. Relevant provisions concerning their competencies and even the specific statutes may be found at their respective websites:
- Internal Security Agency
- Foreign Intelligence Agency
- Central Anticorruption Bureau
- Central Commission on Academic Ranks and Titles (Polish only)
- Public Opinion Research Center
- Central Statistical Office
- Polish Financial Supervision Authority
- Poland’s National School of Public Administration
- Polish Space Agency
- Polish Academy of Sciences
- Polish Committee for Standardization
- Council for Foreigners’ Matters (website in Polish only)
- General Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Poland
- Council for Counteracting Drug Addiction
- Governmental Security Center
- Government Legislation Center (Polish only)
- Financial Ombudsman
- Commissioner for Patients’ Rights
- Chief of the Civil Service
- Office of Competition and Consumer Protection
- Energy Regulatory Office
- Public Procurement Office
As stated above, there are also a number of institutions, whose works aim to support operation of the Council of Ministers, together with its President and, because of that, they are directly subordinate to the Chancellery of the Council of Ministers. More information on their work and its legal basis can be found on most of the websites of individual institutions:
- Government Administration Service Center (Polish only)
- Central Europe Institute
- Polish-Hungarian Cooperation Institute
- Institute for Western Affairs
- National Freedom Institute - Center for the Civil Society Development
- Center for Eastern Studies
- Polish Economic Institute
The central institutions, offices and agencies are either directly subordinated to particular ministers or have specific legal status regulated by statute and perform the tasks related to the particular branch of administration. In most of the cases they have English versions of the websites, provide sources of relevant laws and often translations or excerpts of laws in English.
- Headquarters of the Police
- Headquarters of the Border Guards (all information regarding crossing the Polish boarder can be also found in English)
- National Fire Service Headquarters
- Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression
- State Protection Service
- National Agricultural Support Center
- Agency for Restructuring and Modernization of Agriculture
- Material Reserves Agency
- The Head Office of the State Archives
- National Security Bureau
- General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways
- Chief Pharmaceutical Inspectorate (Polish only)
- Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection
- Chief Sanitary Inspectorate
- General Inspectorate of Road Transport
- General Veterinary Inspectorate
- Central Office of Geodesy and Cartography (Polish only)
- Central Office of Measures
- Central Office of Construction Supervision (Polish only)
- Agricultural and Food Quality Inspection
- National Centre for Nuclear Research
- Agricultural Social Insurance Fund
- National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management
- National Health Fund (Polish only)
- National Atomic Energy Agency
- National Labor Inspectorate
- Main Inspectorate of Plant and Health and Seed Inspection
- National Electoral Commission (Polish only)
- National Disabled Persons Rehabilitation Fund
- Polish Investment and Trade Agency
- Polish Agency for Enterprise Development
- Polish Tourism Organisation
- The Polish Institute of International Affairs
- Polish Centre for Accreditation
- Polish Centre for Testing and Verification
- Penitentiary Service (Polish only)
- Office for Foreigners
- Office of Technical Inspection
- Office of Electronic Communications
- Civil Aviation Authority
- Polish Patent Office
- Energy Regulatory Office
- Rail Transport Office
- Military Property Agency
- State Mining Authority
- Social Insurance Institution
The Polish Ombudsman (Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection) is a body responsible for the protection of civil rights and liberties. The Commissioner hears the complaints from individuals and may take up steps to annul the breaches of law, has a right of initiative to eliminate the contradictions between the adopted legal acts, sends conclusions to relevant organs in order to exercise their right of legislative initiative, influences the directions of interpretation of the law concerning civil right and liberties, and provides opinion reports on the state of civil rights and liberties for Parliament and the public. The Polish Ombudsman performs his duties independently, while being appointed by Parliament for a fixed term of office. All relevant information regarding the functioning and activities of Ombudsman can be found on the official website.
The role of Commissioner is to be a body responsible for the protection of rights of children. In particular, the Commissioner monitors the proper and harmonious development of children and undertakes activities when any information (including direct tips) suggest that these rights might have been violated. The Commissioner is competent to address all public institutions, courts, agencies and NGOs to explain, initiate actions or to request to amend the law. The Commissioner performs his duties independently whilst he is appointed by the Parliament for a fixed term of office.
- National Bank of Poland is the central bank of the State. National Bank of Poland has the exclusive right to issue money as well as to formulate and implement monetary policy. It is responsible for the value of Polish currency.
- Supreme Chamber of Control is the chief organ of state audit and controls the activity of the organs of government administration, the National Bank of Poland, State legal persons and other State organizational units regarding the legality, economic prudence, efficacy and diligence. It is subordinate to the Sejm. The Chamber's work is managed by a president appointed for a 6-year term by the Sejm with the consent of the Senate.
- President of the Personal Data Protection Office is the supervisory authority for the protection of personal data. It ensures the compliance of data processing with the provisions on the protection of personal data, issues administrative decisions and considers complaints with respect to the enforcement of the provisions on the protection of personal data, keeps the register of data filing systems and provides information on the registered data files, issues opinions on bills and regulations concerning personal data protection, initiates and undertakes activities to improve the protection of personal data and participates in the work of international organizations and institutions involved in personal data protection. The inspector is appointed by the Sejm with the consent of the Senate.
- The National Broadcasting Council safeguards the freedom of speech, the right to information and safeguards the public interest regarding radio broadcasting and television. The members of the National Council of Radio Broadcasting and Television shall be appointed by the Sejm, the Senate and the President of the Republic.
- The Institute of National Remembrance is a special organ that investigates and researches the documentation and archives of the activities of communist repressions, and it runs educational activities on this topic. The President of the Institute is chosen and appointed by the Parliament by absolute majority of votes (since 2016, as before it was qualified majority) for a fixed office and is independent in his performance, in accordance with all the laws.
- From March 2010 there was an independent General Public Prosecutor appointed by the President and responsible for public prosecutor service in Poland whose main task was to combat crimes and bring cases before courts to be heard. However, as of 2016 this office was liquidated by the ruling party. In its place the National Public Prosecutor's Office was created, which is subordinated to the Ministry of Justice (similarly to the system prior to 2010).
There are several professional law associations in Poland:
- Judges are represented by two main associations Iustitia and “Themis” (Polish only).
- Advocates (Attorneys) (Polish only).
- National Notary Council
- National Chamber of Legal Advisors – all relevant information regarding the legal counseling.
- National Collector Council – some information regarding Polish execution (collector) system (in Polish only)
- Tax Counselors – link to the newest legal profession (established in 1997) and the National Council of Tax Counselors (in Polish only).
In the above-mentioned circumstances related to intensive changes adopted in the Polish Judiciary system, many of the most well-known lawyers began to comment on the changes proposed by the ruling party. As a result, they have contributed to initiatives established by civil society organizations aiming to keep citizens and opinion leaders well informed, such as Citizens Observatory of Democracy, The Wiktor Osiatyński Archive, and the Rule of Law portal. They have also established civic initiatives aimed at opposing the violation of the independence of the judicial system in the country, like Free Courts/Wolne Sądy.
The extensive list of Polish and foreign law firms may be found through the Polish yellow pages website.
The main source of information regarding Polish membership in the European Union can be found on the European Union information portal, where, inter alia information of Poles holding position in various European institutions can be found, as well as role of the EU budget dedicated to Poland and information on several aspects of doing business and living in Poland (i.e. tax system, some statistical information, job market and tourism). The general and specific information concerning the operation of EU institutions and their relation to Polish membership in the EU, as well as direct contacts for further information may be found at the EU “Europe Direct” portal.
Polish government interests towards the European Union institutions are represented on daily basis by the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Poland to the European Union based in Brussels.
A list of the current legislation may be found at the regularly updated Sejm’s webpage, at the legislation progress site.
A very comprehensive source of legal acts related to economic activity is Commercial Law Centre Foundation where legal acts of different areas of law are provided e.g., administrative law, commercial law, civil law and civil procedure law, tax law, etc.
Civil Law, Commercial Law and related texts can be found on the “Polish law server”, where there are various texts on the Polish legal system. There are also downloadable versions of the Polish Civil Code at the Polish Sejm Internet System of Legal Acts.
Investing in Poland: Anyone who is thinking of an investment in Poland should visit the home page of The Polish Investment and Trade Agency. This is a Polish joint stock company owned by the Polish State Treasury whose aim is to promote foreign investment in Poland. Explanation of major legal rules related to running a business activity in Poland, including rules on applicable taxes, international agreements, labor law, running economic activity, financial system, protection of entrepreneurs, public procurement and so on are available there in English.
Penal Law: a Polish version of the Penal Code can be downloaded from the aforementioned Polish Sejm database of legal acts.
Broadcasting Law: the central institution within the Polish administration that is responsible for supervising the legality, free broadcasting and media is the National Broadcasting Council. The relevant legal provisions concerning the functioning of the Council as well the acts issued by the Council may be found at the English version of the National Council of Radio Broadcasting and Television site.
A comprehensive source of EU law and procedures of its implementation into the Polish legal system as well as other related topics may be found on European Union information website or directly in the European Union legal acts database EUR-lex.
Relatively good sources of Polish law are specific commercial sites that provide extensive data on statutes and other acts that were adopted in Poland:
- OpenLaw Poland
- Lex Lege Portal (access Polish Law; partially open access with certain functionalities available via subscription)
 Preliminary ruling is a mechanism whereby a court of an EU member state can ask the CJEU to interpret the law applicable to all EU members and then this court can apply CJEU’s ruling to assess whether the provision of national law is not contrary to the EU law.