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Brazil: Constitutional Amendment Creates Four New Federal Regional Tribunals

(Apr. 9, 2013) On April 3, 2013, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies approved, on its second reading, a constitutional amendment that creates four additional Federal Regional Tribunals (Tribunais Regionais Federais – TRFs) in the country. The tribunals must be installed within six months of the amendment’s promulgation. Their headquarters will be located in <?Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Manaus, and Salvador. As the amendment had already been approved by the Federal Senate, the next step is its promulgation. (Isabel Braga, Congresso Ignora Apelo de Barbosa e Aprova Criação de Quatro Novos Tribunais, O GLOBO (Apr. 3, 2013).)

Minister Joaquim Barbosa, President of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court, was against the creation of the new tribunals. His argument, made during a meeting on March 19, 2013, with the Presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and the Federal Senate, was that there is an excessive number of employees in the five existing TRFs. Despite Barbosa’s arguments and the opposition of several members of Congress, the legislature had a different perspective and created the tribunals (id.).

Background Information on TRFs (Tribunais Regionais Federais [Federal Regional Tribunals], Justiça Federal(last visited Apr. 4, 2013).)


The TRFs were created by the Constitution of 1988 (Constitutição Federal (C.F.), Ato das Disposições Constitucionais Transitórias, art. 27(§6), PLANALTO.GOV), which established that five tribunals should be installed within six months from the promulgation of the Constitution, with their jurisdiction and seat location to be determined by the Federal Court of Appeals (Tribunal Federal de Recursos), taking into account the number of existing cases and the cases’ geographical location. (Id.)

The Federal Court of Appeals exercised the jurisdiction attributed to the TRFs throughout the national territory until the new tribunals were installed (id. art. 27(§7); at that time, the Federal Court of Appeals ceased to exist.


Each TRF is composed of a minimum of seven judges, appointed by thePresident of the Republic from among Brazilians over 30 and less than 65 years of age, one-fifth of whom must be attorneys with more than ten years of professional experience and members of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (Ministério Público Federal) with more than ten years in the position, and four-fifths of whom must be federal judges with more than five years in the position. (C.F. art. 107.)


TRFs have original jurisdiction to hear:

a) cases against federal judges, including military judges and labor law judges, whenever they are involved in common crimes and crimes of responsibility (crimes de responsabilidade, crimes committed by public officials in exercising their functions), and cases against members of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Ministério Público da União), except for cases under the jurisdiction of the Electoral Justice;

b) criminal reviews and annulments of federal court decisions;

c) writs of mandamus and habeas data against an act of the TRF or a federal judge;

d) habeas corpus claims, when the habeas corpus is issued by a federal judge; and

e) conflicts of jurisdiction between federal judges subordinated to the TRF. (C.F. art. 108(I).)

TRFs act as courts of review in cases decided by federal judges and in cases decided by state judges exercising federal authority in the area of their jurisdiction. (C.F. art. 108(II).)