In his first session as presiding officer of Brazil’s National Justice Council — CNJ, Supreme Court chief justice Joaquim Barbosa positioned himself favorably on investigations into the finances of judges suspected of misconduct, and stated that the military justice system in some Brazilian states could be abolished.
The two pronouncements positioned the newly installed chief justice in agreement with his predecessor at the CNJ, Eliana Calmon, with whom Barbosa met today to discuss the status of the CNJ.
Calmon is a hard-bitten senior appeals court justice known for her fiery outbursts against bandidos togados — criminals wearing judge’s robes.
Investigations into the finances of suspect judges under Calmon resulted in a crisis that pitted Calmon against then-CNJ president Cezar Peluso. As a result, the inquiries were halted by means of a bureaucratic maneuver — a request for time to review the file — by CNJ councilmember Tourinho Neto.
When the case was taken up again today, councilmember Silvio Rocha proposed that all the evidence be nullified, given that judges had had their financial privacy broken by the ombudsman without a court order.
Rocha based his appeal on a previous decision by Barbosa, which prevented the Federal Accounting Tribunal (TCU) from invading privacy without judicial authorization.
Barbosa replied: “I see that Silvio Rocha here treats the CNJ and the TCU in the same way, forgetting the fact that the CNJ is an agency of the Judiciary.”
Barbosa did not expand on this argument because another «pedido de vista» — request for time to review — was granted.
Barbosa indicated, however, that he would support future investigations into magistrates whose financial means exceed their salaries.
The power of the CNJ to conduct financial investigations has created a crisis involving Calmon, the courts, and the professional associations representing the judiciary.
Another injunction granted by the Supreme Court, for example, has called a halt to one investigation into judicial payrolls that was based on data collected by the Council on Control of Financial Activities — COAF — the AML division of the Treasury..
Old Soldiers Just Fade Away
Military Tribunals. In today’s session, Barbosa faced another controversy: the existence of military tribunals in the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul.
The productivity of these tribunals and the expense of maintaining them led Barbosa to suggest that they could be phased out. “This is a system of justice that could easily be absorbed by common law, because there is absolutely no need for it to exist.”
This is quite a startling and gutsy thing to say.
Of all the suggestions received by Brazil in the process of establishing its human rights credentials before the international community, only one — the existence of separate, parallel military jurisdictions and separate systems of legal responsibility for military police — has been ignored.
Data collected by the CNJ show military justice system budgets of over R$ 96 million, with a workload of 6,087 cases. In Minas Gerais, where the system is being challenged, military justice operates on R$31 million per year and deals with 322 cases per year per judge. In the case at hand, two judges are charged with negligence for letting the statute of limitations run on 247 criminal cases in 2010 alone.
“These numbers not only oblige the CNJ to examine the responsibility of judges for allowing so many cases to lapse, but also forces us to reflect on the productivity and efficiency of state military justice in general,” said CNJ councilmember Bruno Dantas.
This information led the CNJ president to defend the realization of studies on the efficiency of the military tribunals, but he left out the military counterpart to the STF, the STM — Superior Military Tribunal.
“A commission will be established, or perhaps I will ask the CNJ’s statistical bureau to conduct a preliminary study before we establish a commission to produce more concrete proposals,” Barbosa said.
In the course of today’s session, the CNJ resolved 23 cases. A high court judge in Tocantins involved in some sort of municipal bond scheme was forcibly retired.
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