Supreme Federal Court

Supreme Federal Court
Supremo Tribunal Federal

The Supreme Federal Court building at the Praça dos Três Poderes (Three Powers Plaza)
Established 1829
Country Brazil
Location Brasília
Composition method Presidential nomination with Senate confirmation
Authorized by Constitution of Brazil
Number of positions 11
Website Official website
Currently Cármen Lúcia
Since September 12, 2016
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Foreign relations

The Supreme Federal Court (Portuguese: Supremo Tribunal Federal, [suˈpɾẽmu tɾibuˈnaw fedeˈɾaw], abbreviated STF) is the supreme court (court of last resort) of Brazil, serving primarily as the Constitutional Court of the country. It is the highest court of law in Brazil for constitutional issues and its rulings cannot be appealed. On questions involving exclusively non-constitutional issues, regarding federal laws, the highest court is, by rule, the Superior Court of Justice.

Alongside its appeal competence, mostly by the Extraordinary Appeal (Recurso Extraordinário), the Court has a small range of cases of original jurisdiction, including the power of judicial review, judging the constitutionality of laws passed by the National Congress, through a Direct Action of Unconstitutionality (Ação Direta de Inconstitucionalidade, or ADI). There are also other mechanisms for reaching the Court directly, such as the Declaratory Action of Constitutionality (Ação Declaratória de Constitucionalidade, or ADC) and the Direct Action of Unconstitutionality by Omission (Ação Direta de Inconstitucionalidade por Omissão or ADO).

The eleven judges of the court are called Ministers (Ministro), although having no similarity with the government body of ministers. They are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. There is a mandatory retirement age of 75.

All judicial and administrative meetings of the Supreme Court have been broadcast live on television since 2002. The Court is open for the public to watch the meetings.

In May 2009 The Economist called the Supreme Federal Court "the most overburdened court in the world, thanks to a plethora of rights and privileges entrenched in the country's 1988 constitution (...) till recently the tribunal's decisions did not bind lower courts. The result was a court that is overstretched to the point of mutiny. The Supreme Court received 100,781 cases last year."[1]


The court was inaugurated during the colonial era in 1808, the year that the royal family of Portugal (the House of Braganza) arrived in Rio de Janeiro. It was originally called the House of Appeals of Brazil (Casa de Suplicação do Brasil).

The proclamation of the Brazilian Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the Imperial Constitution in 1824 preceded the establishment of the Supreme Court of Justice (Supremo Tribunal de Justiça) in 1829. With the first Constitution of the Republic, the current Court was established.

Although the constitutional norms that regulated the creation of the Court allowed Deodoro da Fonseca, Brazil's first president, to nominate an entirely new Court, the president chose to nominate as the first members of the Supreme Federal Court the ministers who were then serving as members of the predecessor imperial Court.

Two hundred members have served on the Court. The Constitution of 1891 decided that the Court would have 15 members. When Getúlio Vargas came into power, the number of members was reduced to 11. The number was changed to 16 in 1965, but returned to 11 in 1969 and has not changed since. Of all Presidents of Brazil, only one (Café Filho) never nominated a minister.

The Justice, by Alfredo Ceschiatti in front of the Supreme Federal Court

President of the Court

The President and Vice-president of the Court are elected by their peers for a term of two years by secret ballot. The currently serving President is Carmen Lúcia.

Re-election for a consecutive term is not allowed. By tradition, the members of the Court always elect as president the most senior minister of the Court that has not yet served as President, to avoid politicization of the Court. Therefore, it is known beforehand that the next Presidents of the Court, after Carmen Lúcia, will be, in order, Dias Toffoli and Luiz Fux.

If all members currently sitting on the Court have already served as president, the rotation starts all over again; however, due to the existence of a compulsory retirement age, and the consequent appointment of new ministers to fill those vacancies, it is very rare for the cycle to be completed and restarted, and some ministers are forced to retire before their turn in the presidency arrives, as expected to happen with Teori Zavascki.

According to the same convention, the Court selects as vice-president for a certain term the minister who, according to that tradition, will be selected president in the succeeding term. Also by tradition, the elections of the president and vice-president are never unanimous, there being always one isolated minority vote in each election, as the ministers who are to be elected never cast their votes for themselves; such votes are cast either for the Dean of the Court – its most senior member – or for some other elder minister that the one to be elected admires and wants to pay homage to.

The Chief Justice is also the 4th in the Presidential Succession Line, when the President of Brazil becomes prevented to be in charge, being preceded by the Vice-President, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, and the President of the Federal Senate, as provided in Article 80 of the Brazilian Constitution.[2]

Current members

Name Birth Appointed by First day Mandatory retirement Alma mater

Mello, Celso deCelso de Mello

November 1, 1945
(age 71)
in Tatuí, São Paulo
Sarney, JoséJosé Sarney August 17, 1989
(serving for 27 years, 3 months)
November 1, 2020 University of São Paulo

Marco Aurélio Mello

July 12, 1946
(age 70)
in Rio de Janeiro
Fernando Collor de Mello June 13, 1990
(serving for 26 years, 6 months)
July 12, 2021 Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

Mendes, GilmarGilmar Mendes

December 30, 1955
(age 60)
in Diamantino, Mato Grosso
Cardoso, Fernando HenriqueFernando Henrique Cardoso June 20, 2002
(serving for 14 years, 5 months)
December 30, 2030 University of Brasília

Lewandowski, RicardoRicardo Lewandowski

May 11, 1948
(age 68)
in Rio de Janeiro
Lula da Silva, Luiz InácioLuiz Inácio Lula da Silva March 16, 2006
(serving for 10 years, 8 months)
May 11, 2023 University of São Paulo

Lúcia, CármenCármen Lúcia

(President of the Court)

April 19, 1954
(age 62)
in Montes Claros, Minas Gerais
Lula da Silva, Luiz InácioLuiz Inácio Lula da Silva June 21, 2006
(serving for 10 years, 5 months)
April 19, 2029 Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais

Toffoli, DiasDias Toffoli

(Vice President of the Court)

November 15, 1967
(age 49)
in Marília, São Paulo
Lula da Silva, Luiz InácioLuiz Inácio Lula da Silva October 23, 2009
(serving for 7 years, 1 month)
November 15, 2042 University of São Paulo

Fux, LuizLuiz Fux

April 26, 1953
(age 63)
in Rio de Janeiro
Dilma Rousseff, Dilma Rousseff March 3, 2011
(serving for 5 years, 9 months)
April 26, 2028 Rio de Janeiro State University

Weber, RosaRosa Weber

October 2, 1948
(age 68)
in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul
Dilma Rousseff, Dilma Rousseff December 19, 2011
(serving for 4 years, 11 months)
October 2, 2023 Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul

Zavascki, TeoriTeori Zavascki

August 15, 1948
(age 68)
in Faxinal dos Guedes, Santa Catarina
Dilma Rousseff, Dilma Rousseff November 29, 2012
(serving for 4 years)


August 15, 2023 Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul

Luís Roberto Barroso

March 15, 1958
(age 58)
in Vassouras, Rio de Janeiro
Dilma Rousseff, Dilma Rousseff June 26, 2013
(serving for 3 years, 5 months)
March 15, 2033 Rio de Janeiro State University

Luiz Edson Fachin

February 8, 1958
(age 58)
in Rondinha, Rio Grande do Sul
Dilma Rousseff, Dilma Rousseff June 16, 2015
(serving for 1 year, 5 months)
February 8, 2033 Federal University of Paraná


See also


  1. "Brazil's supreme court: When less is more". The Economist. May 21, 2009.
  2. Brazilian Constitution (in Portuguese)
  3. STJ Webpage (in Portuguese). Retrieved November 9, 2012
  4. STF webpage (in Portuguese). Retrieved December 1st, 2012
  5. STF website (in Portuguese). Retrieved November 25, 2012.

Coordinates: 15°48′11″S 47°51′40″W / 15.803°S 47.861°W / -15.803; -47.861

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/22/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.