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Brazil’s Supreme Court is in the middle of its Big Brother moment. Everywhere you look there are old people in togas.
The justices are trying 38 people accused in the mensalao trial, the biggest and most gripping trial ever to come before the highest court. It’s live on television every day and what happens is headline news.
In addition, President Dilma Rousseff this week named a new justice, Teori Zavascki, 64, to replace Cezar Peluso who was forced to retire after turning 70 years old.
Here’s the odd thing. Peluso was forced to stand down in the middle of the biggest trial of the century because he reached mandatory retirement age. That could have potentially awkward consequences if the 10 remaining judges are deadlocked.
The other odd things is that Zavascki – if he passes the Senate confirmation – goes straight onto the bench and can vote in the mensalao trial – EVEN THOUGH HE HASN’T HEARD THE EVIDENCE SO FAR.
So here’s a thought. Why not make a provision for judges who reach retirement age to stay on until their ongoing trial ends, or until the current session is over?
And have his replacement take up his role at the start of the next case, not half way through the existing ones.
Wouldn’t that better serve the cause of justice?
(Speaking of Brazilian justice, here’s an excellent piece from Reuters on the same subject.)
Brazil’s Supreme Court has surprisingly knocked down the ban on political humor that had prevented comedians from taking the mickey out of politicians, it announced this morning.
(See my piece here on the Financial Times web site.)
“It is precisely during the electoral period that civil society in general and the electorate in particular most need a free press,” said Ayres Britto, the vice president of the Supreme Court who authored the decision.
Until now, Brazilian TV and radio had been prohibited from “in any way degrading or ridiculing candidates, parties or coalitions” running in the October elections. It had taken the sting out of shows that rely on political satire such as Casseta & Planeta and CQC.
The ban was nothing short of censorship and had been widely criticised. I wrote about it yesterday in Time magazine.
Well done to Britto, who recalled Thomas Jefferson’s quote:
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Roll on Monday and the next CQC.