National Council of Justice
Official site: National Council of Justice.
The National Council of Justice was created by Constitutional Amendment 45, from December 8th 2004. Article 103 of Constitution was split, and article 103-B was created with the purpose of defining the role of the National Council of Justice.
The fifteen members of the Council are appointed in accordance with article 103-B. Most members are appointed by Courts or by the Public Prosecution. Two members are lawyers, appointed by the BAR Association, and two are citizens, appointed by the Parliament. Members of the Council are called Conselheiros (councilmen); this link lists the current Conselheiros of the Council of Justice.
The creation of the Council was controversial.
Before the Council, all matters regarding the conduct of judges and courts were considered interna corporis and, as such, were examined by Judges only; it became a consensus that Judges were being too corporative in handling these matters. A symbolic example was the case of ex-Judge Nicolau dos Santos Neto; he was caught involved in a more than US$ 50 million corruption case; when the disciplinary body of the Justice examined his situation, Nicolau was "condemned" to being retired, with payments proportional to his years of service (Nicolau was sent to jail, but only when trialed by a penal court). If the Council already existed, Nicolau would have been denounced to Public Prosecution.
If the Justice was corporative when judging their members, it was even more difficult to place any kind of complaint against judges. It was (and still is) possible to appeal against the legality of decisions, but there was not much to be done in cases where, for example, the judge was overbusy and could not look into a case for years. One of the functions of the Council is to give the population a means to oversee the performance of judges, and express their discontentment.
Some sectors of the Judiciary considered that this was excessive intervention of external parties on the conscious of judges. The society considered that the Judges had been given excessive freedom, and was abusing it. To chagrin of the former, the Council was created.
The Council was installed in 2005. It is yet to be seen how independent it will be.
Update October 19th 2005. First relevant decision by the CNJ: Nepotism is prohibited. Read text here (in Portuguese; quick registration required).
The CNJ determined that all relatives of Judges who are occupying trusting positions must quit their offices.
Law 9421, from 1996, had already forbidden new relatives from taking office in federal courts. The CNJ expanded that law: the prohibition now is valid for federal and State Justices; the relatives who are currently in office will have a deadline of 90 days (counted from the date when the Decision is published in the official gazette) to quit; the cross-nepotism is also forbidden now; relatives of Judges who run private enterprises are no longer allowed to sign contracts for selling of goods or rendering of services to the courts within the jurisdiction of the respective Judges.
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