On Wednesday (04/10), the National Congress raised demands on the Supreme Federal Court (STF) and provoked a reaction from the Court’s President, Minister Luís Roberto Barroso, who said it was not time to make changes to the court. The latest events show an escalation in tensions between Brazil’s highest court and the Legislative Power, which feels stripped from its powers by the STF.
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The tension in the relationship between the Powers included a public message from the Federal Chamber President Arthur Lira (PP), citing the importance of respecting constitutional limits and the approval of a project in a Senate committee to restrict individual decisions in higher courts. On the other hand, Barroso, who took command of the Federal Supreme Court last week, called a press conference in defense of the institution.
The Senate and the Federal Chamber have united forces to push their goals of limiting the capacities of the STF. Lira stated in the morning that the Powers of the Republic need to remain within constitutional limits and said he was “absolutely certain” that Congress obeys them. At the same time, federal deputies articulated obstructions in the legislative work to pressure the Executive Power for support and to protest against what they consider to be interference by the Judiciary in Legislative prerogatives. The movement against the STF finds resonance in the Senate, where the movement started.
In recent weeks, tension between the STF and Congress has escalated, with support to congressmen growing, particularly from the agribusiness, the opposition, and a more conservative wing to which abortion, land demarcation for indigenous tribes, and the decriminalization of drugs and union taxes are sensitive topics.
In fact, these were the topics that stimulated the entire movement created by the legislators. The discussions considered controversial were proposed by retired minister Rosa Weber during her last weeks heading the Supreme Court, which encouraged congressmen to the current mobilization.
Fighting in Two Fronts
The strategy put in orchestrated by the Legislative includes two basic moves. On the first front, norms are being discussed and approved that aim to reverse the court’s most progressive decisions. On the second front, proposals are being discussed to change the institutional design and powers of the STF to, on the one hand, mitigate the conditions for the court to control excesses and abuses by the Legislative and Judiciary as well as, on the other hand, increase the interference of these powers on the court.
Last week, a constitutional amendment proposal (PEC) began to be processed in the Chamber, which, if approved, would allow Congress to overturn Supreme Court decisions. The text states that court decisions that “exceed constitutional limits” could be suspended if a decree is approved in two rounds, by 308 deputies from the Chamber and 49 votes from the Senate.
Changing the Court’s Regimental Rules
On Wednesday (04/10), senators approved, with a vote in less than 1 minute, a proposal in the Constitution and Justice Commission (CCJ), which limits monocratic decisions in higher courts, such as the STF. The measure still needs to be approved in the plenary of the House and in the Chamber to be valid.
Other ideas that seek to transform the court’s internal rules include the implementation of a mandate to the STF ministers, in addition to the elevation of the minimal age for a person to be eligible to the tribunal.
History of Changes in the STF
The National Congress has already had at least 69 PECs to try to change the rules for appointments to the STF. Currently, the President of the Republic is responsible for choosing the person and nominating he/she, and the Senate is responsible for deciding on its approval.