Brazil’s Supreme Court has delayed a decision on the most eagerly awaited case on the docket: the question of the power of the National Justice Council, a government’s watchdog agency to punish judges.
The case is based on a lawsuit filed by an association of judges (Associação dos Magistrados Brasileiros – AMB) that seeks to limit administrative and, especially, correctional activities by the CNJ. The Chief Justice, Cezar Peluso, simply did not call up the case at Wednesday’s session.
According to justice Marco Aurélio Mello, who is handling the case, the postponement may have been an attempt to calm things down after declarations by Eliana Calmon, the Inspector General, that “bandits in togas were hiding in the judicial system.”
“This is just not the right moment to judge this case. We need to let things clear up a little more,” said Marco Aurélio.
However, another justice, Luiz Fux, said the only reason for not bringing up the AMB suit was a lack of time.
On the other hand, court observers raised the possibility of an attempt by the justices to reach a prior agreement and avoid a public argument.
Prior discussion of cases (called “conference” in the United States and a bedrock of US Supreme Court procedure) is not the rule in Brazil.
Justices reach their own opinions alone and express them separately in open court. Brazilian Supreme Court sessions can often feature verbal fireworks.
The idea of prior discussion is not universally popular among the justices. For example, justice Marco Aurélio Mello declared: “We should take our seats and express opinions spontaneously. There is no room for prior agreements on what we do in court. This is a courtroom, not a theater.”
When Chief Justice Cezar Peluso was asked after the session yesterday if there was a date for discussion of the AMB suit against punitive action by the CNJ, he just said it continued to be on the docket. That translates as: postponed until further notice.