Let me state at the outset that I am not a lawyer, nor do I fully understand the legal system in Brazil. I do know however, by observation and experience, that there is nothing – absolutely nothing – remotely just about it on any level. I offer my thoughts on what might be some of the causes and what might need to be done, but would love to hear from others who have considered the problem.
Entry to the System
Lawyers are created in Brazil in much the same way as they are created anywhere else, although the abysmal quality of education in Brazil means that many an idiot gets through simply because they have the money or the influence to avoid any undue merit-based interference. It is also a fact that the qualification process is much shorter than in the USA or Europe, and depends simply on obtaining a law degree and passing an exam. Once they are “in”, lawyers often specialize, since Brazil’s written laws are archaic, badly written, verbose in the extreme and generally designed to favour those who have money (money to pay lawyers, money to wait, money for bribes etc). It can be truthfully said that all Brazilian lawyers are corrupt, but let’s put this in context – everyone in Brazil is corrupt in one way or another. It is really asking the impossible, I would suggest, to demand that lawyers in a wholly corrupt society should be totally honest, and let’s face it, a lot of the scum they have to deal with hardly merit much honest justice. Nonetheless, we have to start somewhere, and one would want to start with the system of justice.
The problem is that as lawyers move up the legal food chain, they essentially lose touch with reality, become very wealthy, become used to dealing with a legal system which is not fit for purpose, and eventually become judges. Many judges here are amongst the most corrupt, incompetent and least productive in the known universe. And so the whole system is protected, inward looking, self-satisfied, vain-glorious and inherently unjust, which is not what Brazil needs from its system of justice. Anyone who doubts this should look at the very recent case of judge Flavio Roberto de Souza, caught using assets seized in a court case (including a Porsche, a grand piano and a fabergé egg) and allowed to resign with a full pension, instead of being summarily disbarred, fined, and disqualified from receiving any further state money. Any system which can produce this sort of judge and which deals with an issue in this sort of way is clearly a joke.
What do we do?
But how do you resolve the situation? Unfortunately as someone recently said, the plane needs to be fixed in flight; radical surgery needs to be performed without killing the patient. Obviously entrance to the legal system – whether at a clerical or any other level – must be based on merit and merit alone. The system of qualification should be overhauled and anyone who wants to be a lawyer should be required to work for at least a year in the USA or Europe or Australia (in law – not behind a bar or sitting in Daddy’s Miami apartment bought with laundered money). They should be very well paid, but this should be conditional on ongoing professional development and testing, and lawyers, judges and any associated businesses or legal practices should be subject to auditing on an annual basis (effective auditing). The merest suspicion of impropriety should be sufficient to have them disbarred.
In the case of the system itself, the codified law needs to be completely reviewed, and made relevant to a modern society. This is obviously an immense task, but needs to be tackled. The additional precedent law will improve over time once the incompetent boobies at the top are weeded out.
Courts should be devolved further, to the municipalities, so that the system of justice takes months rather than years, and the ability of a judge to interfere directly in cases should be fundamentally restricted – in other words it should be the lawyers who ‘work’ the case, under the eyes of the court/judge – not the judge who works the case (as it stands at present, it is basically enough for you to know the judge to be able to avoid the vagaries of the law, and if your lawyer is friendly with the judge, you will often win your case regardless of legal niceties like guilt or innocence).
One rule for all
On the subject of guilt or innocence, exceptions and qualifications to the rule of law across the board (chiefly, but not exclusively, for politicians) need to be reviewed and substantially eliminated so that there is equal treatment of all citizens before the law. The fact that this obvious requirement has never been fully implemented is on its own sufficient to make a mockery of the entire system.
And just so we can understand it
Finally, all legal documentation, of any kind whatsoever, should be completely re-written in plain Portuguese, such that the meanest intelligence can understand it.
NEXT: Trade barriers – What they have done to Brazil and why they should be torn down.