Brazil’s 1988 Constitution assigned state governments responsibility for establishing public defenders offices in the states. Nevertheless, São Paulo, Santa Catarina, and Goiás have still failed to create them.
The Minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, stressed the importance of these organs to ensure the rights of the population and criticized the truant states.
“It is unpardonable not to have a public defenders office, especially in a country with social exclusion like Brazil, where peoples’ access to life’s goods should include access to justice and, even more, access to legal advice. People are unable to afford it,” he affirmed, following the launching of a diagnosis on public defenders offices, yesterday, December 1st, at the Ministry of Justice.
For the president of the National Association of Public Defenders, Leopoldo Portela Júnior, the absence of public defenders offices represents a lack of respect.
“The population must understand that this is a free legal service, but it has costs. That is why we all pay taxes. It is an obligation of the State and needs to be implemented,” he argued.
The study shows that the average period of existence of the state public defenders offices is 13 years.
It also suggests that the services rendered by these institutions have still not attained the desirable degree of universality, since 57.7% of the country’s judicial districts are outside their scope.
According to the survey, the heaviest concentration of these districts is precisely in the states with the worst social indexes.
The diagnosis, prepared through an initiative of the Ministry of Justice’s Office of Judicial Reform, is meant to identify specific characteristics of the public defenders offices, so that measures can be proposed to help strengthen them and expand their services.
The study was prepared under the coordination of Maria Tereza Sadek, of the Political Science Department of the University of São Paulo, in partnership with the National Association of Public Defenders (Anadep) and with financial support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Translator: David Silberstein