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Judicial Accountability Versus the Separation of Powers: Perspectives on Brazil's National Council of Justice

NCJ Number
International Criminal Justice Review Volume: 21 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2011 Pages: 383-401
Steven R. Minegar
Date Published
December 2012
19 pages
This article discusses judicial accountability through oversight committees known as judicial councils.
Judicial reformers worldwide have recently emphasized the need to increase judicial accountability through oversight committees known as judicial councils. In countries where the separation of powers doctrine is entrenched in the political culture, attempts to establish judicial councils have caused debate between strict interpretationists who favor an internal control model (comprised of judges) and loose interpretationists who favor an external control model (comprised of judges but also representatives from other government institutions). Disagreement over the composition of judicial councils defined the recent debate in Brazil over the establishment of the National Council of Justice (NCJ). This case study of the NCJ uses in-depth interviews with key figures in Brazil's judicial system, along with congressional records and other secondary sources, to document the narratives of supporters and opponents of the NCJ. The results include competing views on the requisites of democratic governance, concerns about the politicization of the judiciary, as well as strictly definitional matters. By exploring the tension between judicial independence and accountability, and the way that additional considerations informed the debate over the NCJ in Brazil, this study reveals many factors that promote and that stand in the way of establishing effective judicial oversight. (Published Abstract)