Special Update on Brazil

COVID-19 Reports on Latin America and the Caribbean: No. 10 (Em Português)

This month we will be focusing on COVID-19 legal updates in Brazil as it relates to the judiciary, with reports that will be written by two Brazilian librarians Marília Mello and Daniela Majorie Akama dos Reis.

Flag of Brazil

Brazil continues to be the country most affected by COVID-19 in Latin American.  According to Brazil’s Ministry of Health, on October 5, 2020, Brazil had 4,927,235 confirmed cases, 146,675 deaths, and 4,295,302 recovered cases.  The states with the most COVID-19 deaths are: São Paulo (36,220), Rio de Janeiro (18,780), Ceará (9,056), Pernambuco (8,340) and Minas Gerais (7,656).  The states with the least amount of deaths are: Roraima (661), Acre (667), Amapá (718), Tocantins (972) and Mato Grosso do Sul (1,365).  And in terms of COVID-19 cases, São Paulo exceeded the 1 million mark, with 1,004,579.  Followed by Bahia (316,005), Minas Gerais (308,466), Rio de Janeiro (273,338) and Ceará (243,106).

Instabilities by the Ministry of Health in monitoring the pandemic, and the lack of transparency in the state health departments, prevent a proper evaluation of the epidemiological situation in the country.  The Ribeirão Preto School of Medicine, in the state of São Paulo, publishes scientific data on the pandemic and claims that the Covid-19 case fatality rate “varies due to the uncertainty about the total number of people infected, which is especially due to the lack of tests available to confirm a COVID-19 infection, producing important discrepancies in the international context.” (original text: “variam pela incerteza sobre a quantidade total de pessoas infectadas, o que se dá especialmente pela falta de disponibilidade de testes de confirmação da infecção pela Covid-19, produzindo discrepâncias importantes no cenário internacional.”).

This university published a graph that adjusts the estimated COVID-19 cases curve based on the death records in the country. The results are very different from the government data released.

Graphic of estimated cases of COVID-19 – Brazil; Y-axis: quantity; X-axis: notification date; Key: minimum, maximum, predicted adjusted cases, adjusted cases, deaths, and confirmed cases.

With the public emergency caused by the coronavirus in mind, the National Council of Justice (the administrative body responsible for oversight and transparency of the Brazilian Judiciary) established an extraordinary on-call regime to standardize the operations of the judicial services, with the objective of preventing the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19 and guaranteeing access to justice through Resolution No. 313/2020 (Resolução Nº 313 de 19/03/2020). Early in the pandemic, the president of the Supreme Federal Court, Minister Dias Toffolli, “assessed that the judicial system cannot be paralyzed, without the risk of disenfranchising millions of Brazilians” (original text: “avaliou que o sistema judicial não pode ser paralisado, sob pena de desamparar milhões de brasileiros”).

Brazil’s Supreme Court in Brasilia

The effects of the pandemic accelerated the implementation of technologies in the courts. Judges and civil servants are carrying out their activities through software that helps with working from home. The judgment hearings and the services provided to the parties and lawyers are taking place virtually. Artificial intelligence in the Judiciary is also a reality in Brazil, with at least 72 projects in different stages of implementation.  The majority of projects with the objective of streamlining case management and reducing repetitive actions, as well as reducing paper and case file transport and storage. Several projects are in full operation, such as VICTOR at the Federal Supreme Court, as well as the project “Legal Intelligence Analysis” (ALEI – “Análise Legal Inteligente”) at the Regional Federal Court of the First Region

In addition to making efforts to guarantee access to justice for the Brazilian population, the courts are allocating millions of Reais of the financial penalties received to assist with the financial reinforcement of the health system in order to contribute to the fight against the new coronavirus. “The allocation of funds is regulated by Resolution CNJ 154/2012. Considering the risks of Covid-19 for the prison system and the juvenile justice system, Article 13 of Recommendation 62/2020 encourages that judges ‘prioritize the allocation of financial penalties decreed during the public health state of emergency period to the purchase of supplies for cleaning, personal protection, and health’, focusing on prison and juvenile justice systems.” (original text: “A destinação dos recursos é regulamentada pela Resolução CNJ 154/2012. Considerados os riscos do Covid-19 para o sistema prisional e socioeducativo, a Recomendação 62/2020 incentiva, no artigo 13, que magistrados “priorizem a destinação de penas pecuniárias decretadas durante o período de estado de emergência de saúde pública para aquisição dos equipamentos de limpeza, proteção e saúde”, com foco nos sistemas prisional e socioeducativo.”).  

Stay tuned for more reports about how the pandemic has increased demands on the Brazilian judiciary and a special report on the day-in-the-life of a court librarian during this time. Also check out the website, which we have updated with more Brazilian legal resource links.

By Abby Dos Santos and Marilia Mello

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