The severity of economic, political, and moral crisis that has paralyzed Brazil for the past three years prompted Luis Roberto Barroso, one of the eleven justices of the Brazilian Supreme Court, to speak bluntly in recent public statements: “We desperately need political reform to counter the sense of devastation brought by corruption,” Barroso said. “It is impossible not to be ashamed…we have gotten used to dishonesty, to being led by dishonest people.” He warned in early August that politicians and other powerful people are mobilizing to “drown Lava Jato,” referring to the three year-long federal criminal investigation that laid bare the systemic nature of corruption in the country. “They have important allies everywhere—in the highest echelons of the Republic, in the media and in places you least imagine.” Yet Barroso also argued that the country has changed; he predicts that those betting on the survival of its discredited politics will be proven wrong.
On September 8th at the Wilson Center, Justice Barroso will address the challenges this crisis poses to the Brazilian judiciary, the only branch of the republic that still enjoys a measure of respect in society. An advocate for the end of the special judicial privileges granted to high-level officials accused of common crimes, such as receiving bribes, Barroso is a lawyer by training, a professor of constitutional law, and has served on the Brazilian Supreme Court since 2013. His presentation will be part of the Brazil Institute series on the “Rule of Law,” co-sponsored by the Brazil-U.S. Legal and Judicial Studies Program at the Washington College of Law at American University.