Rule of Law and Rules‐Lawyering: Legal Corruption and ‘Reprivatization Business’ in Warsaw


Delving into the nexus between the state and informality, this paper discusses the informality of the legal and judicial systems. Produced by structurally powerful actors, this kind of informality is not so much legitimized by the law, but concealed within the very process of legitimization. To capture how legal engineering welds formalized laws with informal translations, I look at judicial outcomes that, while formally legal, are socially delegitimized and perceived as legal corruption. After analysing the contested judicial outcomes of Warsaw’s ‘reprivatization’ process (property restitution), I define the mechanism of legal corruption as rules‐lawyering, by which I mean an attempt to gain legal advantage by obsessively sticking to the written laws, while deliberately desecrating its spirit. I describe three of its mechanisms: appropriation, redefinition and fraud laundering. Finally, in my preliminary vivisection of the recent and ongoing process of delegalizing the legal corruption that has been part of the reprivatization process, all the allied concepts of this forum come together to demonstrate the essential inseparability of informality and state.