• Luis Roberto Barroso

To great fanfare on September 28, Luís Roberto Barroso, senior fellow at the Carr Center, assumed the role of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Brazil for the next two years — a court on which he has already served for several years.

The President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was in attendance, prominently seated next to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but remaining silent during the ceremony, in deference to the voices from the judiciary on this occasion.

Several moving speeches from a member of the court, the chief prosecutor, and the head of the bar association emphasized the important role the Brazilian courts have played in recent years (referring to the Bolsonaro presidency) in defending the Brazilian democracy. The occasion of course was a celebratory one, and the speakers looked back at successful efforts to defend democracy. These reflections already very much captured the real danger that democracy in Brazil had been in, and continues to be in, acknowledging that it was only in the mid-80s that a 20-year military dictatorship had come to an end. After all, it was on January 8 just this year that Bolsonaro supporters attacked the Supreme Court, Congress, and the Presidential Palace in Brasilia to reinstate Bolsonaro, similarly to what happened in the United States on January 6, 2021.

But while so far Donald Trump remains eligible for higher office in the US despite his role in the January 6 insurrection, the courts in Brazil have barred Jair Bolsonaro from running for public office until 2030. In his own speech, Justice Barroso repeatedly referred to human rights and their importance for Brazilian jurisprudence and social causes. To much applause from the several hundred invited guests (among them faculty director Mathias Risse and former Carr Center executive director Sushma Raman), Justice Barroso stressed the importance of policies and legal action to improve the situation of women and people of color in multiethnic Brazil — the urgency of which any casual observer would have already derived from the composition of the audience, with the people in the roles of highest authority almost all white and largely male, with some distinctive exceptions, such as Justice Barroso’s predecessor, Rosa Weber.

A fairer treatment for Indigenous Peoples was also stressed, as were LGBTQI+ rights and environmental issues. Justice Barroso’s speech was inspiring, and his famous sense of humor was in play; among the several individuals who spoke, he was the only one who generated the occasional laughter in the audience. It is a great honor to count Justice Luís Roberto Barroso among our Carr Center Fellows.