Friday, September 24, 2010

Justice in Numbers

I am privileged this week to be attending an international conference by this name, held in Brasilia, Brazil. It is hosted by the National Council of Justice, an entity created under the Brazilian Constitution in 2004, with administrative, financial and disciplinary roles and jurisdiction over all courts except the Federal Supreme Court. The President (Chief Justice) of the Federal Supreme Court, Cezar Peluso, is also the President of the National Council of Justice. (Interestingly, Brazil has two special central courts, the aforementioned FSC, which has jurisdiction over constitutional cases, and the Superior Court of Justice, which is the court of last resort in non-constitutional matters. My friend Antonio Benjamin, who teaches part-time at UT Law School, is a minister on the latter court.)

The occasion for the event is the release of "Justice in Numbers 2009," the flagship product of the National Judiciary Statistics System. One important finding is that approximately one third of the 86.6 million cases in the Brazilian courts are fiscal enforcement proceedings, contributing greatly to a backlog. Apparently many of these cases, maybe all, I am not quite sure, are prosecuted by the executive branch, so this is an area where collaboration across branches of government - a common theme in our work in the US - seems critical for the Brazilian courts.

Also at the conference is Mary McQueen, President of the (US) National Center for State Courts, who invited me to attend with her. We are encouraging Brazil - and they appear very receptive - to become involved with the International Framework for Court Excellence, a broad international agreement regarding core court values such as impartiality and transparency. This has been a wonderful opportunity to share information across national boundaries, on the use of data in judicial administration, and we are excited at the prospect of future engagement with the leadership of the courts of Brazil.

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