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Protesters rally around Polish Supreme Court justice in defiance of new law

Poland's chief Supreme Court justice stood on the courthouse steps with hundreds of supporters Wednesday in opposition to a new law forcing members of the panel to retire at 65.

The new law, which took effect midnight Tuesday, lowered the mandatory retirement age down from 70. It forces the retirement of about 40 percent of the Supreme Court's justices -- 27 out of 73.

"We emphasize our attachment to the rules of a democratic state," Chief Justice Malgorzata Gersdorf said before entering the Warsaw courthouse.

She called the new law a "purge" of justices, which could see the ruling Law and Justice Party seize control of the high court. The law also establishes a disciplinary chamber, which The New York Times said the governing party could use to intimidate judges.

Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Gersdorf is "doomed to fail miserably."

On Monday, the European Union launched legal action against Poland for the new law, saying it threatened judicial independence.

"Every EU country has the right to develop its judicial system according to its own traditions," Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the European Parliament on Wednesday.

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