The Lula Opinions (Trial Court Verdict and Summary of Appeals Court Affirmance), Now Available in English Translation

The conviction and imprisonment of former Brazilian President (and current would-be presidential candidate) Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known as Lula) is among of the most consequential and polarizing outcomes of a corruption investigation in recent memory. The case that led to Lula’s conviction (one of several that were pending against him) did not necessarily involve the biggest or most important allegations, but it was the one that was brought first, presumably because this was the case where the prosecutors felt they had all the evidence they needed to proceed, though critics insist that the case was rushed through on skimpy evidence in order to disable Lula from seeking the presidency in this month’s election.

I only know a bit about the specifics of the case, which involved a beachfront apartment than a construction company had allegedly promised to Lula in return for helping the company secure contracts with Brazil’s state-owned oil company. (Lula, for his part, claims that he was never promised the apartment and the only evidence otherwise is unreliable testimony from one of the company’s executives, who offered the testimony in exchange for a reduced sentence as part of a plea bargain.) But I’ve been repeatedly told by passionate, seemingly well-informed Brazilians on both sides of this debate that the judicial opinions in this case—the original trial court verdict and the appellate court affirmance—demonstrate that their side of the argument is clearly correct:

  • On the one hand, I’ve been told by several of Lula’s strong supporters that the charges against him are bogus and the conviction is improper. “Just read the judicial opinions from the trial court and the appeals court,” one of them told me last spring, “and it will be obvious that they make no sense, and that there was no real legal or factual basis for the conviction.” (I’m paraphrasing, but only slightly.)
  • On the other hand, I’ve been told by supporters of the prosecution in this case that Lula’s conviction was the right legal result, and that the attacks on the verdict (and the associated attacks on the prosecutors and judges) are politically-motivated obfuscation. “Just read the judicial opinions from the trial court and the appeals court,” several people with this view have emphasized, “and it will be obvious that the law and the evidence amply supported the verdict.”

Since smart, well-informed advocates on both sides have told me I should read the opinions, that seemed like a sensible thing to do. Until recently, though, this would not have been possible, as the opinions were (to my knowledge) only available in Portuguese, which I do not read. But I was recently informed that the trial court opinion, as well as an official summary of the appeals court opinion, are now available online in English translation! I haven’t had a chance to read them yet (the trial court opinion is 185 pages long; the summary of the appellate court ruling is a more succinct six pages); I may post again after I’ve done so if I feel like I’ve got anything useful to say. For now, it occurs to me that there might be other non-Portuguese speakers out there who are following developments in Brazil and would like to read these opinions for themselves, so I’m posting the links:

  • The trial court verdict is here.
  • A summary of the appellate court ruling is here. (I’m still hoping to find and post an English translation of the full appeals court ruling.)

Hopefully this will be helpful to others who are trying to work through what they think about the accusations and counter-accusations swirling around this high-profile case. Again, there’s only so much an outsider can learn from the text of court opinions, especially without knowing more about the surrounding context and the details of Brazilian law, but I figure this will at least be helpful.

[NOTE: The original version of this post erroneously characterized the appeals court document linked to above as the full appeals court ruling. That was incorrect; the online document is an English translation of the summary of the appeals court ruling. The text of the post–as well as its title–have been changed to correct this mistake.]

5 thoughts on “The Lula Opinions (Trial Court Verdict and Summary of Appeals Court Affirmance), Now Available in English Translation

  1. There are a few facts (not assumptions, but facts) that you and other readers should be aware of to really understand the issues involving Lula’s conviction. If any, it is important that anyone understands that Lula was sentenced in accordance with the facts and evidence presented in his trial, held in accordance to with the law. It was not a political judgment, like Lula’s minions want to make it look like. It is also important to keep in mind that the court decision was later on maintained by the Appellate Court, composed of 3 judges (2 of such judges, João Pedro Gebran Neto and Leandro Paulsen, have been appointed by Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s puppet). And it was not a split decision. I hope the translation you have has been obtained independently. I would be concerned if it was a translation arranged by the Worker’s Party. Regards, Pedro Costa Braga

  2. I noticed that the translations referred in my earlier post were published by the Federal Prosecutor’s Webpage. So, my latest comment (above) should be ignored.

  3. Brazilian democracy is suffering for long depending on it’s judiciary, which is depressed much to follow the West. Lula and his next follower Dilam are convicted by the traditional surface- evidence bond court order. They are convicted that is most deserved by West and ‘Anticorruption movementent’ of legal elites.
    Now, IACC personnels are much afraid of the popularity Lula and the fabricated court-procedings.
    Be carefully about legal as well as corrupt view of IACC. Please.

    • The “fabricated court-proceedings” rhetoric is one thing. How Lula was tried and the case against him has developed and got judged, is another. Present some facts for a change!

  4. Thank you for posting the translations of these important opinions, Professor Stephenson.
    I have to say that I often find myself quite surprised by the shortage of English translations of major judicial opinions from non-English speaking parts of the world. This is especially true of opinions which deal with corruption. Given the global nature of legal academic writing in this field, one might expect that more NGOs would take it upon themselves to produce English translations of important opinions about corruption. Unfortunately, relying on the expectation that official government actors will do so is not enough. For example, in Israel, only very few judgements issued by the Supreme Court are translated into English, despite the great attention that they receive in both international media and international academic scholarship. (The aforementioned translations are available here: https://supreme.court.gov.il/sites/en/Pages/fullsearch.aspx.) In the context of corruption, it is worth mentioning that there is no full official translation of the Israeli Supreme Court’s key opinion regarding the biggest corruption case of the last few decades in Israel, a.k.a the Holyland affair, which involved former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

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