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Sheding a Litlle Light on Brazil’s Judicial Reform

What follows are some of the chief items covered by the Brazilian Congress proposal to reform Brazil’s Judicial Branch. A bill proposing several changes has just been approved by the Senate.

External Control


One of the chief items in the reform is the creation of an organ, the National Council of Justice, to exert outside control of the Judicial Branch.


Control is currently exercised by the Judiciary itself, thus, the controversy.


Many judges disagree with the creation of the council and consider the proposal purely political.


“In the first place, we did not want this council, since we are already monitored by the Courts, the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB), the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the General Accounting Office,” affirms the president of the Rio de Janeiro Magistrates’ Association, Judge José de Magalhães Peres.


The council was approved by the Senate on November 16.


The Council will be part of the Judicial Branch structure, and most of its members will be judges.


The details of the organ’s operation will be defined later by a complementary law or the Organic Law of the Judiciary. But its powers will include proposing the initiation of processes to remove judges.


Summary Opinions of Binding Effect


For cases identifical in nature and judged by its members in the same way, the Federal Supreme Court (STF) issues summary opinions.


This instrument was created long before the reform, to elucidate how the STF reaches its decisions in certain situations.


These decisions serve as references for other judges and courts to make their own judgments, when they rule on matters identical to those covered in the STF’s summary opinions.


But they are not obliged to repeat the sentences issued by the Supreme Court and are free to emit their own judgments.


The Summary Opinion of Binding Effect, which will be established through passage of the PEC 29/2000, requires judges to adopt the same rulings as the STF in situations for which summary opinions exist. The intention is to speed up the court system.


Summary Opinions Barring Appeals


In the opinion of the president of the Rio de Janeiro Magistrates’ Association, Judge José de Magalhães Peres, even more effective for speeding up the court system is the summary opinion barring appeals, one of the items in the reform expected to return to the Chamber of Deputies for analysis, because it was modified in the Senate.


With this summary opinion, when a judge’s decision concurs with the Federal Appeals Court, the suit is barred access to the higher court. The summary opinion would already evidence the court’s ruling.


According to the Brazilian Bar Association, the Brazilian legal system now permits as many as 47 appeals.


Judge Peres believes that the summary opinion barring appeals will have a positive effect on state legal systems, mainly in the courts.


“When the Supreme Court feels overwhelmed, it is because here on the ground floor, it is no longer possible to control the number of cases. The number of appeals must be reduced,” he contends.


According to Peres, a civil judge in Rio de Janeiro handles around 400-500 cases per week and delivers in excess of 100 sentences per month.


Agência Brasil
Translator: David Silberstein

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