Last night, in a second vote, the Senate approved a Judiciary Reform bill which will now become law, although a part of the bill that was modified by the Senate will have to return to the Chamber of Deputies.
Judiciary reform bills have been floating around in Congress for 13 years, so the favorable vote last night, 56 to 2, with 2 abstentions, was commemorated by the Minister of Justice, Thomaz Bastos.
Bastos called the new law “a landmark leap in quality in the history of Brazil. This bill is a point of departure and opens the way to other Judiciary reforms.”
Pursuant to the bill, within 180 days a National Justice Council will be set up with members from the Judiciary branch, government prosecutors (Ministério Público) and the Bar Association, besides two lay members appointed by Congress.
The council will receive charges against members of the Judiciary branch and government lawyers. It will also oversee the Judiciary system and its operation.
The bill also establishes a Government Prosecutor Council with the same attributions regarding government lawyers and their activities.
“With these external control mechanisms in place, it will be possible to monitor Judiciary branch decisions, especially in the administrative area, with the transparency the public wants.
“The establishment of the council will also make it possible to link previously separate units of the Judiciary into an integrated whole,” explained senator José Jorge (PFL-PE), who wrote the final text of the bill.
In the final text, the senators decided to keep a modified principle of precedent (known as “súmula vinculante,” in Portuguese) which requires lower court judges to follow decisions made by at least eight of the eleven justices on the Brazilian Supreme Court. “This will speed up judicial processes,” declared senator Aloizio Mercadante (PT-SP).
The bill also institutes a “quarantine,” prohibiting Judiciary officials and government lawyers from returning to work in the same area for a period of time after they retire.
Another change is to make certain crimes against humanity federal crimes.
The items in the bill which have to go back to the Chamber of Deputies concern nepotism and certain restricted cases of the “súmula vinculante.”
Translator: Allen Bennett