COVID-19 Legal Lab

Brazilian Courts and COVID-19: a forced switch of paradigm

Considering COVID-19, on March 19, 2020, the Brazilian Board of Justice (“CNJ”) issued a resolution² applicable to all Brazilian Courts that (i) suspended time frames by April 30, 2020; and (ii) established a judicial duty for the same period. According to the resolution, the courts must guarantee basic services, such as efficient analysis of injunctions.

Studies demonstrate that household isolation may last until august 20202, four months from now. COVID-19 will limit our lives not for days, but for months, and what comes into play now is: How will Brazilian justice enable its citizens to access judicial services?

Around the globe, online courts have been a main topic for a long time. They came as a new way of approaching disputes, designed mainly to reduce and avoid asymmetry of information, resolving disputes only residually³. British Columbia implemented in 2012 a Civil Resolution Tribunal (“CRT”), based on a three-step proceeding⁴, that remains fully operational during the COVID 19 crisis. China also implemented smart courts and that has significantly reduced bureaucratic work⁵. Singapura established an online court for neighbor disputes and small claims⁶.

With COVID-19 on the scene and the need to reduce personal contact, courts are adapting quickly to a new reality. On March 20, 2020, Texas (US) announced that its courts will operate through videoconference⁷. In Los Angeles, forums that deal with family issues started to operate online⁸. The demand for online mediation through platforms has also spiked with COVID-19⁹. These movements point out a need to expedite the development of online courts.

Sao Paulo¹⁰, Rio de Janeiro¹¹ and Federal District’s¹² State Appeals Court implemented telework for judges, interns and civil servants and remote private audience with the judge. The Federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit also implemented telework.

When it comes to adaptations that can be long-lasting, the Supreme Court of Justice (‘STF”) modified its internal rules and established the possibility of online oral arguments¹³. The Brazilian Board of Justice (“CNJ”) also modified its internal rules to enable a call for an online extraordinary session¹⁴, and, mainly, on 1st April, 2020¹⁵, CNJ announced an emergency digital platform that enables courts and tribunals to safely hold virtual judgment sessions and evidentiary earings. This initiative will broaden the scope of the judiciary while presential work is impracticable.

The new reality brought by COVID-19 will drive the Brazilian justice system to change paradigms. As Richard Susskind has claimed for years, justice can no longer be a place, it is a service¹⁶. Brazilian Courts shall broaden its skylines and adapt to new challenges. The longer the crisis goes on, the greater the incentives are to virtualize all stages of the legal proceedings that previously depended on the presence of all the main factors of the judicial system at the Court. After COVID-19, Brazilian Courts may never be the same, and this can be a good side effect of the pandemic.

1 CNJ Resolution 313/2020.

2 See https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf.

Access on 24 March 2020.

3 WOLKART, Erik Navarro. Análise Econômica do Processo Civil. São Paulo: Revista dos Tribunais, 2019, p. 739.

4 CANADA. Civil Resolution Tribunal. Home. Available at: [https://civilresolutionbc.ca].

5 See https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2017-11/19/content_34736527.htm. Access on 24 march, 2020.

6 See https://www.statecourts.gov.sg/cws/SmallClaims/Pages/GeneralInformation.aspx. Access on 24 march, 2020.

7 See https://www.law.com/texaslawyer/2020/03/12/here-are-the-latest-updates-from-texas-courts-regarding-coronavirus/?slreturn=20200223234218. Access on 24 march, 2020.

8 See https://www.law.com/therecorder/2020/03/16/how-covid-19-is-impacting-california-courts-roundup-of-services/. Access on 24 march, 2020.

9 See https://www.cbs19news.com/story/41874167/the-demand-for-online-mediation-spikes-during-covid-19-coronavirus-outbreak. Access on 24 march, 2020.

10 See https://www.tjsp.jus.br/Download/Portal/Coronavirus/Comunicados/Provimento_CSM_20200320_1.pdf. Access on 24 march, 2020.

11 See http://www.tjrj.jus.br/web/guest/informes-presidencia/informe/-/visualizar-conteudo/10136/7108586. Access on march 24, 2020.

12 See https://www.tjdft.jus.br/institucional/imprensa/noticias/2020/marco/tjdft-adequa-atos-de-funcionamento-e-suspende-prazos-processuais. Access on 24 march, 2020.

13 See http://portal.stf.jus.br/noticias/verNoticiaDetalhe.asp?idConteudo=439857&ori=1

14 CNJ Resolution 312/2020.

15 See https://www.cnj.jus.br/plataforma-emergencial-viabiliza-atos-processuais-por-videoconferencia/. Access on 3rd April, 2020.

16 SUSSKIND, Richard; SUSSKIND, Daniel, The Future of Professions: How technology will transform the work of human experts. Oxford: Oxford University, 2015, p. 70.

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