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STF participates in the 2nd Assembly of the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Portuguese Language Countries

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Justice Dias Toffoli, representing the Chief Justice of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (STF), Ayres Britto, participated between May 14th and May 16th 2012 in the 2nd Assembly of the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Portuguese-Language Countries (CJCPLP) in Maputo, Mozambique's capital. The 2nd Assembly, which was attended by seven of the eight members of CJCPLP (the eighth member, Guinea-Bissau did not send any participants because of the recent political instability occurring in the country), dealt with the theme "Jurisdiction of the Constitutional Courts and Supreme Courts in Electoral Matters".

The Conference, which was formed in 2009 during a meeting held in Brasilia, is designed to happen every two years and aims to organize judicial, jurisprudential and scientific cooperation. Besides Brazil and Mozambique, members of the Conference are Portugal, Angola, Sao Tome and Principe, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and East Timor.

The 1st Assembly of the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Portuguese Language Countries was held in 2010 in Lisbon, Portugal. At that first meeting, it was approved the Conference Statute, which suggested the deepening commitment to a common culture shared by the Portuguese - Language countries and selected the city of Maputo to host the second meeting. Participating in the Assembly were the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court, the Constitutional Court of Angola, the Supreme Court of Cape Verde, the Supreme Court of Guinea-Bissau, the Constitutional Council of Mozambique, the Constitutional Court of Portugal, the Supreme Court of Sao Tome and Principe and the Court of Appeals of East Timor.

President of STF, Minister Ayres Britto, formulated before the 2nd CJCPLP Assembly some proposals, such as the Brazilian candidacy for the presidency of the Conference for the 2012-2014 biennium, as well as Brasilia being the host city of the 3rd Meeting of CJCPLP in 2014.

Moreover, other suggestions included the development of a methodology for the creation of a thematic index of case law and the establishment of technical cooperation programs with a focus on operating the “TV Justiça” channel and electronic case files.

When talking about the experience of the Supreme Federal Court of Brazil regarding publicity and transparency in the workings of the Court, Justice Dias Toffoli mentioned the live broadcast of trials on the “TV Justiça” channel and on the Internet, accessible anywhere in the world.

Justice Dias Toffoli also spoke about the electronic case files, which may be of interest to other courts, since all the actions that are originally brought in the Supreme Court are now electronically filed, thus allowing more flexibility to the proceedings. The idea of technical cooperation programs is to give support to Courts interested in adopting similar technology.

Also on behalf of STF, the Minister presented the proposal of the creation of Tobias Barreto exchange program for magistrates of Portuguese Speaking Countries. The first edition of the program will be subsidized by the Brazilian Supreme Court, which will facilitate the visit of judges for two days, paying for travel costs, accommodations and meals for the judges to know the Brazilian Juridical System on constitutional matters.

In addition, the Assembly approved the Brazilian design for the logo of the Assembly and the submitted version of the webpage of the Conference, which aims to disseminate information about activities of the Conference and its members, including its cases. In the Assembly it was agreed that Portugal will be responsible for the development of the site, and Brazil will be responsible for its internet hosting. To access the CJCPLP site, click here.

Finally, it was submitted the proposal of the issue of an annual publication named "Major Decisions of the Constitutional Jurisdictions of Portuguese Speaking Countries". The publication aims to bring together the most significant decisions of each member of the group in a specialized edition. As an example, the Brazilian Minister mentioned important decisions, such as those concerning social and racial quotas, same-sex civil marriage, and freedom of expression in marches in favor of marijuana, among others. According to the Justice, these "are significant decisions and all the countries have decisions that could be selected for publication."

Brazilian electoral process
In his presentation on the main topic discussed at the 2nd Meeting of CJCPLP, "Powers of Constitutional Courts and Supreme Courts in Electoral Matters," Justice Dias Toffoli explained the functioning of the Electoral Justice in Brazil.

The Justice explained that the main legal provision that applies to elections in our country is article 14 of the Constitution, according to which popular sovereignty is exercised through universal suffrage and by direct and secret voting with equal value for all.

"Here is the equal protection for the votes of all citizens who are eligible to vote," summarized the justice, elucidating that this principle is one of the clauses of the Constitution that can never be modified by constitutional amendment.

"Since the 1988 Constitution, we are living the longest period of democratic stability, which shows that the Constitution gave a very positive response to the maintenance of institutions," he said. He further explained that the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) is the highest court on electoral matters and has both administrative functions, organizing the elections, and juridical ones, to solve litigations of electoral disputes.

Minister Toffoli also explained that discussions relating to elections only come to the Supreme Court when a Constitutional issue is at stake, for example, the discussion about “Lei da Ficha Limpa” (Clean Record Act) (Law 135/2010).

He also spoke about the composition of the electoral courts, deciding on voluntary and compulsory voting, eligibility conditions, public financing of campaigns, and voters’ identification through biometrics.

From Mozambique, Justice Dias Toffoli flied to Cadiz, Spain, where he represents the Supreme Court in the 9th Ibero-American Conference on Constitutional Justice, between May 17th and May 20th.

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