Justice reforms

By ETCO
13/10/2009

Source: The State of S. Paulo - SP - 13/10/2009

In an administrative session, the ministers of the Supreme Federal Court (STF) approved the regulation of Law No. 12.019, sanctioned on August 21, 2009 by President Lula, which authorizes the rapporteurs of criminal actions of the Court itself and of the Superior Court of Justice (STJ ) to summon state or federal criminal court judges and criminal court judges from the Courts of Justice and the Federal Regional Courts to act in interrogations and other acts of procedural instruction.

Proposed by Minister Cezar Peluso, the initiative aims to streamline the processing of criminal proceedings in the STF and STJ. According to the regulation approved by the STF, magistrates of lower courts may be summoned for a period of six months, renewable for an equal period, up to a maximum term of two years. Along with the binding summary, the general repercussion clause and the general repercussion principle, innovations that were introduced by Constitutional Amendment (EC) No. 45, this is yet another measure specially designed to decongest the two most important courts in the country and increase the legal certainty for citizens and businesses.

Since these innovations began to be adopted, thanks to the first Republican Judiciary Reform Pact signed five years ago by the presidents of the Three Powers to accelerate the implementation of EC 45, the number of appeals in the higher courts has been falling significantly. The Supreme Court's latest balance sheet, released this week, confirms this trend. Between January and October 2007, for example, around 11 thousand cases were distributed to the 101 ministers of the Court. In 2008, the number plummeted to 58.638 and, in 2009, in the period between January and 6 October, only 35.580 cases were distributed.

In addition to the procedural and administrative innovations adopted to decongest the upper courts and speed up the judgment of appeals, the STF announced another important initiative to make the second Republican Judicial Reform Pact viable. Designed to democratize access to justice, establish new conditions for the protection of human rights, improve the quality of judicial provision and increase the efficiency of the penal system in combating violence and crime, the document was signed in April by the presidents of the Three Powers and provides for the creation of an interinstitutional management committee.

Until now, Minister Teori Albino Zavascki, of the STJ; the judge Rui Stocco, from the TJSP and a member of the National Council of Justice (CNJ); Judge Antonio Umberto de Souza Jr., from the 6th Labor Court in Brasília and also a member of the CNJ; retired federal judge Vladimir Passos de Freitas; and the secretary general of the Supreme Presidency, Luciano Fuck. As almost all nominees are from the judiciary, which is why they have no experience in administrative management, the interministerial committee lacked an experienced and respected administrator. The problem was solved this week with the appointment of Everardo Maciel. Former Secretary of Finance of Pernambuco and the Federal District, Former Head of Federal Revenue, Former Executive Secretary of the Ministries of Finance, Education, Interior and Civil House, FGV professor and UN and IMF tax consultant and board member advisory body of the CNJ, he is today one of the most respected specialists in public administration in the country.

Maciel's appointment was made at a time when the CNJ has been encouraging all courts to comply with the so-called “Goal 2”, by which they pledged to judge, until December, all actions filed before 2005. Of the 38 million cases who entered the judiciary until this year, 33,7 million are being processed in state courts, which complain about the lack of resources. For state and federal authorities charged with the budget of the government, the courts mismanage the funds they receive. With Maciel joining the management committee of the second Republican Pact for the Reform of the Judiciary, the problem of professionalizing the management of Justice may begin to be addressed. With the measures that the CNJ and the STF have adopted, the Judiciary is gradually entering the axes.