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A Global Judicial News Report: April 2023


Judicature International (2023) | An online-only publication
Brazil Supreme Court at Night

Brazil 🇧🇷

Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered former President Jair Bolsonaro to testify about riots that occurred on Jan. 8, 2023. On April 14, Justice Moraes agreed to a request for Bolsonaro’s testimony filed by Brazil’s top public prosecutor who said it was an “indispensable” step to clarify what happened on Jan. 8. During the riots, far-right Brazilian citizens stormed government buildings including the Brazil Supreme Court, vandalized offices and artwork, and called for military intervention to oust the incoming president. Bolsonaro had been in Florida during the riots and denies any responsibility for the violent protests. His testimony has been scheduled for April 26, 2023. (Al Jazeera, Washington Post)

France 🇫🇷

France’s Constitutional Council approved French President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the country’s retirement age from 62 to 64. The move has been met with widespread opposition and protest, as it utilized a process that bypassed Parliament. When the French Parliament declined to pass the retirement legislation, President Macron exercised Article 49.3 of the French Constitution, allowing him to pass legislation without a vote in parliament. France is considered by legal scholars to be the only Western democracy where the executive branch can pass major legislation without legislative approval. The law raising the retirement age is set to take effect on Sept. 1, 2023. (The Wall Street Journal)

Israel 🇮🇱

Intense protests in Israel have continued over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the judiciary. Each year, Israel Independence Day is normally observed with celebrations and festivals. But this year, celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of Israel’s founding were marred by protests. For more context on Netanyahu’s proposal to overhaul the judiciary, see the feature article in the April 2023 edition of Judicature International. (Al Jazeera, Reuters)

In April, the U.S.-based financial risk assessment firm Moody’s also downgraded its outlook on the Israel economy from “positive” to “stable.” In a statement, Moody’s said: “The manner in which the government has attempted to implement a wide-ranging reform without seeking broad consensus points to a weakening of institutional strength and policy predictability.” (Jerusalem News)

Mexico 🇲🇽

On March 26, the Mexican government announced it would challenge the Mexico Supreme Court’s temporary suspension of parts of a controversial electoral reform bill. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government criticized the court for acting outside of its constitutional authority. “It is essential that the ministers that make up the (Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation) act within the powers that correspond to them, without trespassing the limits imposed by the Constitution and the laws,” the government said. The Supreme Court’s statement said that the case involved “the possible violation of citizen’s political-electoral rights.” (Reuters)

New Zealand 🇳🇿

In March, Chief Justice Dame Helen Winkelmann of the Supreme Court of New Zealand announced the release of a digital strategy report that outlines a comprehensive plan to modernize the New Zealand judiciary. “The use of appropriate digital technology is now essential to enable the courts to perform their function of upholding the rule of law, and to enable the judiciary to administer justice for the benefit of all people,” the report says. Courts in New Zealand rely primarily on a paper filing system, the report notes, which limits the courts’ flexibility to operate during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic or earthquakes. Funding was approved and development is currently underway on Te Au Reka, a new digital case management system the report describes as an “important first step” in modernizing New Zealand’s justice system. (Courts of New Zealand, PDF)

World Jurist Association/United Nations 🌐

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer accepted a medal of honor from the World Jurist Association on April 13, 2023. The World Jurist Association is a nongovernmental organization with special consultative status with the UN. Since its founding in 1963, its mission has been to establish a free and open forum where judges, lawyers, and law professors can work together to solve problems and strengthen the rule of law. During his acceptance speech, Justice Breyer spoke about why a strong rule of law is essential in a world that is facing so many uncertainties and divisions. “You cannot live together in communities, particularly with people who don’t agree with you, and get anywhere without a rule of law,” he said. (Law360)

United States 🇺🇸

The ProPublica investigation into U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ undisclosed luxury gifts, which included a trip in 2019 to Indonesia that cost more than $500,000, has increased calls for the United States Supreme Court to adopt an ethics code. Sen. Chris Van Hollen has proposed making the Court’s funding contingent on the adoption of an ethics code; Sen. Dick Durbin, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, invited U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts to testify at a committee meeting in May 2023 regarding the ethical rules governing the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roberts declined. (ProPublicaForbesNPRThe New York Times)

U.S. District Judge Esther Salas said “much remains to be done” to improve the security and protection of state and federal judges and their families. During a speech on April 12, 2023, at Stockton University, Judge Salas said the federal government tracked 4,511 inappropriate communications made to federal judges in 2021. (That’s up from 926 inappropriate communications tracked in 2015.) Similar data is not currently tracked for state judges, but, she noted, “state judges face the same threats that federal judges do, and violence against the court also threatens state court systems,” she said. (Law360)

The April 2023 Global Judicial News Report was compiled and written by Eric Surber, website and social media specialist for Judicature and Judicature International.