The judiciary is inefficient, subject to executive influence, especially in the Supreme Court where judges are appointed by the executive, and corrupt, particularly at state level.
Courts are slow and the absence of disciplinary mechanisms has rendered the judiciary unaccountable. There is a shortage of judges coupled with insufficient resources, resulting in a mounting backlog of cases and trial delays. To tackle these problems, the government embarked on a program of judicial reform, including the introduction of constitutional amendments in December 2004 establishing the principle of binding precedent with regard to high court decisions in order to increase the efficiency of lower courts and the establishment of a National Council of Justice to deal with complaints against judges.
The law remains unclear as to whether it is the police or prosecutors who have the prerogative to initiate criminal investigations – a legal vacuum that has yet to be addressed in the constitutional reform process. The constitutionality of criminal investigations initiated by the Public Prosecutor’s Office is currently being tested by the Federal Supreme Court.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers noted in November 2004 that there is a tendency to nepotism in the appointment of ancillary judicial staff and judicial exams are not always conducted transparently.
Judges and lawyers continue to suffer attacks. While the judicial reform initiative has recognized the functional and administrative autonomy of the Office of the Public Defender for the Federal District and Territories, no provisions have been adopted to ensure the independence of the federal and state offices. Access to justice continues to be discriminatory.
Brazil-Attacks on Justice 2005-Publications-2008 (full text, PDF)Attacks on Justice 2005Publications