Ensuring Moro a Supreme Court seat a bad move by Bolsonaro

. May 13, 2019
moro bolsonaro supreme court Justice Minister Sérgio Moro (L) alongside Senate President Davi Alcolumbre. Photo: José Cruz/ABr

The Jair Bolsonaro government will have huge consequences for the public administration. By the end of his term, in 2022, he is set to name nine judges to superior courts—including two Supreme Court justices. And, on Sunday, President Jair Bolsonaro announced that one of these vacancies will be filled by his Justice Minister, Sergio Moro.

Unless one of the 11 court members were to resign or die, Mr. Moro will get the Supreme Court nod in November 2020, when Justice Celso de Mello turns 75 years old and is forced to retire.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Moro&#8217;s pick for the Supreme Court is among the administration&#8217;s worst-kept secrets, as it has been reported that Mr. Bolsonaro </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">promised</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> him a seat on the country&#8217;s highest tribunal upon accepting his cabinet role. However, this doesn&#8217;t mean saying it out loud wasn&#8217;t a political mistake.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">By showing his hand so early, Mr. Bolsonaro has handed the tools to the congressional leaders who wish to curb his power. One group of members of Congress wants to pass a constitutional amendment to raise the age limit for Supreme Court justices from 75 to 80. The president&#8217;s declaration is set to make them push even harder in that direction.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Regardless of what one may think of his agenda, Mr. Moro does qualify for the job—having served 22 years as a federal judge and working as a clerk for Justice Rosa Weber in the past. He is also considered one of the biggest experts in money laundering on the bench. But the president said he has promised the job to Mr. Moro, suggesting it was a condition for him to </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">join the cabinet</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">—which raises many ethical issues.</span></p> <h2>Why name Mr. Moro now?</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Just last week, Congress served Mr. Moro a harsh political defeat. The Special Budget Committee took Brazil&#8217;s money laundering enforcement agency Coaf away from his jurisdiction, though the minister has defended the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">agency&#8217;s role in the fight against corruption</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. While the decision is yet to be confirmed, recent developments in the relationship between the government and Congress don&#8217;t suggest Mr. Moro is set to revert the blow.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Overseeing Coaf was one of the conditions for Mr. Moro to agree to join the cabinet at the end of last year. When the committee voted against him, rumors began circulating that the former judge could resign. Therefore, publicly naming him to the Supreme Court almost two years before a vacancy is set to exist would be the president&#8217;s way to calm him down—and empowering him, showing that the Justice Minister is &#8220;the man&#8221; in Brasília.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Instead, however, it holds Mr. Moro hostage to the Senate, which must confirm any Supreme Court appointment.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In theory, Mr. Moro was chosen for the Justice Ministry to crack down on corruption. If he does his job effectively, though, he could be killing his hopes of making it to Brazil&#8217;s highest court. The hand-kissing ritual that every nominee has to undergo has already started for him. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It is true that, since the 19th century, no Supreme Court appointee has been rejected by the Senate. But the level of </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">belligerence between the different branches of government</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> is something unseen in recent Brazilian history.

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Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

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