A majority of the members of Brazil’s National Judiciary Council (CNJ) signed a document refuting declarations by the CNJ Inspector General, Eliana Calmon, after she said that there were bandits in togas in the Brazilian justice system.
In a note read at a CNJ session yesterday, Tuesday, September 27, the president of the CNJ, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Cezar Peluso, called the accusations baseless.
Peluso’s note was signed by 12 of the 15 members of the CNJ. Eliana Calmon, a representative of the Bar Association (OAB) and another judge did not vote at the session yesterday.
Without directly citing Calmon, the note said in part: “Without identifying persons, without due process, accusations are made without proof and doubt cast on the honor of thousands of judges who daily toil away at their work of impartial and honest judgment ensuring the safety of society and the stability of a democratic state under the rule of law.”
In an interview to the São Paulo Newspaper Association, Eliana Calmon declared that in the Brazilian judiciary “… there is a grave problem with the infiltration of bandits who hide behind togas.”
The Supreme Court is scheduled to judge a suit brought by an association of judges, the Brazilian Association of Magistrates (AMB), which is attempting to restrict CNJ powers to investigate and punish judges for corruption and misdeeds.
According to Eliana Calmon, any restrictions on the powers of CNJ oversight and investigation is the first step to impunity for bad judges
However, the president of the judge’s association (AMB), Nelson Calandra, disagrees. He called the remarks by Eliana Calmon erroneous because they were generalizations and said it was important to put restrictions on the ability of the CNJ to judge and punish judges as that is an attribution of local courts. In other words: judges should be judged by other judges on the same court.
The attempt by the AMB to restrict CNJ activities has resulted in a tug of war that could redefine the role of the council that was established in response to decades of complaints of nepotism, inefficiency, corruption and the law’s delay in the judicial system.
The AMB seeks to have CNJ decisions on disciplinary and administrative activities of judges ruled unconstitutional. With CNJ corrective powers severely reduced, the council will be mainly restricted to its less controversial duties: to plan, manage and modernize the judicial system.
If the AMB suit wins out and limits are set on the CNJ, it will be able to take disciplinary action only after local judicial oversight agencies have completely exhausted due process.
That is, after the local judges have judged the local judges. This would be a return to the way things worked before 2005 when the CNJ was created (by constitutional amendment #45) as part of a Judiciary reform by the Congress in response to popular demands for closer oversight of what courts and judges were doing or not doing.
In the economic front, the Brazilian government has taken steps in a juggling act involving gasoline content and prices to avoid an increase in final prices for the consumer. The amount of ethanol that is added to gasoline will be reduced from 25% to 20% on October 1 (the sugarcane harvest will be less than expected).
Normally that would increase the price of gasoline (which is more expensive than ethanol), but the government will reduce one of its fuel taxes, the “Cide,” from R$230 to R$192.60 per cubic meter of fuel.
The secretary of Economic Oversight at the Ministry of Finance, Antônio Henrique Silveira, says the measure is exclusively due to a small increase in price that could occur with the change in the mixture of gasoline and sugarcane-based ethanol. He adds that the measure is no guarantee that prices will remain stable. “Prices are free,” he declared.
In practical terms, the government has reduced the Cide from R$0.23 to R$0.19 per liter. That will translate into a loss of some R$50 million in tax revenue for the government.