The president of Brazil’s Federal Elections Court (TSE, Tribunal Superior Eleitoral), Minister Carlos Velloso, criticized Thursday, August 11, the privileged bar enjoyed by legislators and the President of the Republic when they are tried for ordinary crimes.
During a debate at the International Conference on Challenges and Prospects for Strengthening Brazilian Political Institutions, in the Chamber of Deputies, Velloso said he is fearful that recent accusations of legislators’ involvement in irregular campaign financing will cause a bottleneck in the Federal Supreme Court (STF, Supremo Tribunal Federal).
“The Supreme Court has hundreds of criminal suits to judge. How many will there be now? The Supreme Court will not be able to clear the docket and lacks the capacity to make all these rulings,” he remarked.
The privileged bar allows federal deputies, senators, and the President of the Republic to be judged by the STF instead of regular courts.
According to Velloso, the function of the Supreme Court is to decide direct actions of unconstitutionality, not electoral or ordinary crimes.
“Lower court judges are the ones suited for such cases. When these cases are transferred to higher courts, it represents a privileged bar, a vestige of the Imperial era inconsistent with republican principles,” he emphasized.
In the opinion of the president of the TSE, the privileged bar contributes to corrupt practices in the country, because it assures politicians of impunity.
“Brazil is currently 52nd in the international corruption ranking. In each municipality there is a public prosecutor who is a judge, and he is the one who effectively supervises government accounts, preventing corruption. But political suits are not assigned to the lower courts,” he pointed out.
Velloso cited the example of the United States, where there is no privileged bar. “Former president Richard Nixon had to appear before a lower court judge,” he recalled.