Welcome to the new school year

As the school year begins, we would like to welcome you all to this year’s version of HLS-BR. Between the challenges with air travel and online education, this semester is an unusual semester. But along with the challenges, there are also opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Brazilian and American societies and legal communities made evident the importance of coordination between the multiple elements of the civil society. In order to help move this conversation forward, we will be hosting a series of talks and debates during this school year on these very important topics.

Last year’s edition of the Brazilian Legal Symposium had to be cancelled and we are still uncertain on whether we will organize the Brazilian Legal Symposium in the upcoming year. But the dialogues will still go on.

Registration is now open! (Inscrições Abertas!)


Registration for the III Brazil Legal Symposium at Harvard Law School, which will take place at Harvard Law School from April 6 to 8, is NOW OPEN. If you wish to attend this event, click on the link below. Please note that the number of available seats is limited and that the Organizing Committee will set up a lottery to make a random distribution of tickets if registration exceeds the total number of seats available.

Inscrições para o III Brazil Legal Symposium at Harvard Law School, que ocorrerá na Harvard Law School de 6 a 8 de Abril, estão ABERTAS. Se você deseja comparecer ao evento, clique no link abaixo. Observe que o número de vagas é limitado e que a Comissão Organizadora irá realizar um sorteio de ingressos caso as inscrições excedam a capacidade total de vagas existentes.

Permaneçam atentos às nossas redes sociais ao longo das próximas semanas – em que divulgaremos os painelistas, estrutura final dos paineis do evento e nossos patrocinadores!


International Trade in a Changing Landscape

Recognizing that Brazil is a major user of the Dispute Settlement System of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Harvard Law Brazilian Studies Association, in conjunction with IBRAC and Mexican lawyer Horacio A. Lopez-Portillo brought Ricardo Ramirez – former Chair of the Appellate Body at the WTO – to Sao Paulo to discuss the current crisis at the Appellate Body. The conference also included two panels that addressed: (i) Trump’s trade policies – which one of our board members, Barbara Medrado, moderated – , and (ii) the challenges for Brazil’s new trade policy.

We would like to thank our speakers and moderators that flew from different countries and cities to enrich our discussions: Francisco Niclós Negrão, Lucas Queiroz Pires, Aluísio de Lima-Campos, Michelle Ratton Sanchez Badin, Eduardo Freitas Alvim.

We would also like to thank our sponsors who made this event possible: Fialho Salles Advogados, Mundie Advogados, Nasser Sociedade de Advogados, and Tozzini Freire Advogados. A heartfelt thank you for the support received from Vazquez Tercero & Zepeda Abogados, RRH Consultores L.C., King & Spalding, and Alston & Bird as well.

The Enhancement of Human Rights Through Mediation & ADR

On October 12, 2018, HLS BR had its coffee talk (co-sponsored by Rule of Law Now) “THE ENHANCEMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS THROUGH MEDIATION & ADR”, with guest speaker Victor Schachter, founder and president of The Foundation for Sustainable Rule of Law Initiatives (FSRI), an NGO dedicated to establishing sustainable mediation centers globally to achieve timely, fair and peaceful conflict resolution in countries with backlogged court systems.

It was an incredible opportunity to discuss with Harvard Law School’s community how mediation and ADR can help improve justice systems across the globe.


No dia 12 de outubro de 2018, foi realizado o coffee talk “O FORTALECIMENTO DOS DIREITOS HUMANOS POR MEIO DE MEDIAÇÃO E SOLUÇÕES ALTERNATIVAS DE CONFLITOS”, organizado pela HLS BR em parceria com a Rule of Law Now, com o palestrante Victor Schachter, fundador e presidente da The Foundation for Sustainable Rule of Law Initiatives (FSRI), uma ONG dedicada a implantar centros de mediação sustentáveis a fim de proporcionar soluções de conflitos tempestivas, justas e pacificas em países em que o sistema judiciário se encontra sobrecarregado.

Foi uma excelente oportunidade de discutir junto à comunidade acadêmica da Harvard Law School como mediação e soluções alternativas de conflitos podem ajudar a aperfeiçoar sistemas de justiça ao redor do mundo.

@ Harvard Law School

Victor Schachter @ Harvard Law School

Victor Schachter & Members of Harvard Law School Brazilian Studies Association

The Roles of Supreme Courts in Contemporary Democracies: A Conversation with Justice Barroso and Professor Mark Tushnet

This 16th of November, 2017 the Brazilian Studies Association welcomed Luis Roberto Barroso (Justice at the Brazilian Supreme Court) and Mark Tushnet (William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard Law School) for a conversation on the roles of supreme courts in contemporary democracies.

We began with Justice Barroso’s account of the rise of the Judiciary Power after World War II as a protector of fundamental rights and democracy, as enhanced by the modern disillusionment of societies with majoritarian politics and its inefficiency in resolving highly controversial subjects. It is a trait of our times that life has become increasingly more judicialized (there are currently 70 million ongoing law suits in Brazil alone), leaving constitutional courts with the burden of writing the last chapter in the chain novel of political, social, economic and ethical matters.

In Both Brazil and the United States, legislatures have often failed to address issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, assisted suicide, embryonic cells research, and so on. As a result, the work of constitutional courts in ensuring the rule of the majority, protecting the rules of the democratic game and enforcing fundamental rights entered a place where the boundaries separating law and politics are not so clearly defined, although still existent.

Discharging its duties in such a complex setting, constitutional courts end up playing three principal roles as political institution within a democratic form of government. The first of them is the countermajoritarian role, which is basically comprised of the invalidation of laws enacted by elected bodies of government. Justice Barroso argued this is a role very rarely performed, which indicates that supreme courts actually tend to align themselves with the majorities in a given time.

Secondly, there is the representative role, in which courts grant social demands that have not been timely addressed by legislatures. Maybe the expression countermajoritarian is not proper in this context, since there will be times in which the courts act in a way that is more consistent with the will of the people. In these cases, the action of the courts would be better defined by the expressions counter legislative, or counter congressional. In the United States, a good example would be Griswold v. Connecticut, where it is reasonable to assume that, at the hight of the sexual revolution and the affirmation of the feminist movement, the prohibition of use of contraceptives even by married couples did not correspond to the majority of the population’s view. In Brazil, examples involve the supreme court-sponsored ban on the appointment of relatives to public positions and invalidation of the law governing corruption-friendly electoral financing.

The last role is the enlightened one. Justice Barroso stressed its exceptionality, in light of the risk of authoritarian exercise of power. The enlightened role demands great parsimony, and even greater caution. In this situations, the courts act against the will of the legislature without public support, once its actions also run afoul of the majoritarian interests in society. This sort of extreme situation would only be justified while protecting fundamental rights of minorities and pushing History forward, such as observed in the performance of the United States Supreme Court in matters of desegregation of public schools (Brown v. Board of Education), miscegenation laws (Loving v. Virginia), right to abortion in the first trimester (Roe. v. Wade), and validity of same-sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges).

Summing up, Justice Barroso stressed that constitutional Courts should not be too shy nor too arrogant in their roles. Democracy in the overly complex world that we currently live in demands of public agents great sensibility and, where needed, creativity to make sure our fundamental commitments are upheld through time.

Brazilian Coffee Talks: Challenges and Opportunities of The Crisis’ Day-After

Given Brazil’s past experience, is the current moment one of crisis?

Prof. Paulo Barrozo argued that Brazil has endured related political and economic moments of instability in its history. If anything, our record shows the development of institutional, rule-of-law-advancing solutions to the problems at hand, as well as an overall increase in the nation’s productive capacities and a significant advancement of the social wellbeing of the general public. If this claim is to be true, then it begs the question of how Brazil will continue to move forward while maintaining the improvements it has fought for over its history.

The consequences of the post-Lava Jato and post-commodity eras in Brazilian politics and economy are still to unfold, though Prof. Barrozo displayed unshaken optimism about Brazil’s ability to harness strength to reinvent itself and further its political, institutional and economic commitments.

At the end of our fruitful conversation, we were left with a stimulating provocation, which we now share with the reader: were the world to end today, with what would Brazil have contributed to mankind? Or, In slightly different terms: why is it that we, as a people, are important to the history and future of the world?

Brazilian Coffee Talks: (Re)Thinking Brazil

In times of crisis, good governance of public institutions becomes imperative for their instant survival and perpetuation over time. A public university is no exception; entrenched private interests, federalism-like difficulties in running decentralised schools, resource scarcity and heavy oversight from controlling mechanisms being some of the hampering idiosyncrasies that have grown all too common for Brazilian public institutions across the board.

Despite this scenario, the Federal University of Parana has consistently been ranked as one of the leading public institutions in Brazilian superior education and on September 16, 2017 we welcomed those charged with its current stewardship.

Prof. Ricardo Marcelo Fonseca, Dean of the Federal University of Parana, as well as Prof. Vera Karam and Prof. Paulo Opuszka, spoke to us about sensitive challenges Brazilian public universities face to improve management and foster research and public spirit in a way that is consistent with what Brazil’s current state of affairs demands of graduates, both as citizens and professionals.

We were honored to receive these respected professors in our community!

Austerity and human rights: the impacts of the new constitutional fiscal regime in Brazil

15319134_1359078670777608_911374283341946047_nThe Brazilian government led by the center-right Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) is seeking to consolidate a long term agenda of reduction of the state. The government proposed an Amendment to the Constitution, recently approved by the Congress, that institutes what has been called a “New Fiscal Regime” . The regime establishes a limit of zero real growth for primary spending for twenty years. The New Fiscal Regime also suspends the constitutional vinculation of revenues for expenditures with public health and education. This vinculation was adopted after intense mobilization of civil society as a way to guarantee public funding for those areas and is considered to be fundamental to enable the state to ensuring the infrastructure of basic social services. The Workshop invited former Brazilian Minister of Reform of the State and Senior Director for Education at the World Bank, Claudia Costin, and former Secretary of Science and Technology at the Brazilian Minister of Health and Visiting Scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Adriano Massuda, to discuss the impacts of the proposal for public health, education, economics and human rights.


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