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Brazil: Federal Supreme Court Issues Binding Decision on Attorney Access to Evidence

(Feb. 9, 2009) On February 2, 2009, the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal or STF) issued a binding decision (Súmula Vinculante No. 14) that grants attorneys in criminal cases the right to have access to documented evidence involving their clients, even if the criminal process is being carried on in secret. The decision was issued in response to a request made by the Federal Council of the Brazilian Bar Association in connection with numerous other decisions previously issued by the STF that allow attorneys to have access to criminal processes. It was the fourteenth binding decision issued by the court since its creation in 2004 and the first one issued as a response to an external request.

According to article 103-A of the Brazilian Constitution, after it has made reiterated decisions on constitutional matters, the STF may, ex-officio or upon demand, issue a decision that has binding effect on the other organs of the judiciary, as well as on the powers of direct and indirect administration of federal, state, and municipal governments. (Press Release, Supremo Tribunal Federal, Plenário Edita 14a. Súmula Vinculante e Permite Acesso de Advogado a Inquérito Policial Sigiloso (Feb. 2, 2009), available at