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Chief Justice highlights the progress of the STF on the promotion of social integration

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

In recent years, the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (STF) has made progress on the construction of a case law favorable to the promotion of social rights and the integration of minorities, as consolidated in several cases, in what refers to access to education and health and in cases such as the constitutionality of racial quotas and homoaffective unions. There has also been an increase in the participation of civil society in the Court’s decision-making processes, through public hearings held by the Court and the admission of  amicus curiae.

These aspects of the STF’s recent developments were presented and analyzed by the President of the Federal Supreme Court, Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, in his participation that took place today morning (30)  as the main speaker of the 3rd World Congress on Constitutional Justice. This year’s  edition of event, held in the Republic of Korea, gathered Constitutional Courts of 92 countries under the theme “Constitutional Justice and Social Integration.”

STF’s social integration

It is not possible to promote social integration without the incorporation of the concept of material or substantive equality. Through that incorporation, the formal perspective of the principle isonomy, present in the nineteenth-centuries’ Constitutions, is overcome. In this theoretical context, Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski presented the recent developments of the Brazilian Supreme Court’s activities, dividing his analysis in three different aspects: social rights, integration of minorities and the social participation.

Social rights

Citing verdicts in reference to children’s access to nurseries and pre-schools, free supply of medicine and the compulsory establishment of Public Defenders’ Offices, the Chief Justice pointed out the consolidation of an understanding, subsequently reiterated in various cases, which restricts the hypotheses of application of the “theory of reserve for contingencies” by the public power. According to that theory, the positive nation-state’s activity is conditioned on the availability of public resources and on the reasonableness of the plead.

According to the understanding consolidated by the STF, it is necessary to assure to all persons an existential minimum, linked to the concept of the dignity of the human being. Thus, the possibility of the consolidation of social rights through judicial means was established, through a case-by-case analysis of the legal pleads.

Vulnerable groups

The Chief Justice presented to the public an analysis of the STF’s emblematic trials on different issues that contributed to a better social integration of vulnerable groups and minorities in amongst various social contexts in Brazil. Among the analyzed cases are the constitutionality of ethnic-racial quotas, the homoaffective unions, the trial on Maria da Penha Act of women’s protection and the issue of indigenous lands’ demarcation on the “Raposa Serra do Sol” reserve case.

Amicus curiae and public hearings

The admission of amicus curiae on cases of concentrated judicial review, according to Chief Justice Lewandowski, values pluralism by assuring the formal participation of entities and institutions that do not represent the litigants. Thus, it allows the general interests of collectivities, groups or specific classes to appear, supporting the STF in its decision-making.

At public hearings, public discussions of important issues take place, involving different perspectives on technical, economic or political elements of certain matters. Thus, the hearings aim to promote respect on the existing diversity of lifestyles and worldviews, besides providing the STF with the rich material for analysis. Public hearings were held in cases such as stem cells research, the financing of electoral campaigns and the affirmative action on access to superior education.


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