Quotas for public defenders

In a historic vote, Public Defender’s Office all but approves racial quotas In a historic vote, Public Defender’s Office all but approves racial quotas

The São Paulo State Public Defender’s Office took a historic step this Thursday (October 23). Currently at six votes in favor to one against, its Higher Council is poised to approve the creation of racial quotas for the next public entrance examination for Public Defenders.

The decision will only be formalized when the votes of all 11 Council members have been cast. Nevertheless, the six votes in favor already make it possible to declare victory. The next step will be to determine how the quota system will work.

Conectas accompanied the voting session, where there was a strong presence of black social movements, civil society organizations, students and lawyers.

The session was adjourned after one of the members requested more time to analyze the case. The Council will meet again next Thursday, October 30, or on Friday, November 7, to hear the votes of the four remaining members.

This is a historic moment that could put an end to the monopoly of the white man as the standard public defender. The falsity of the myth of “Brazilian racial democracy” has been widely demonstrated in scientific research and can easily be seen by observing government agencies, whether in the Judiciary or not.

Although the majority of the Brazilian population, 50%, is made up of blacks and ‘pardos’ (dark-skinned people), only 20% of the new composition of the lower house of Congress is black and just 22% of the employees in the Judiciary hired through public entrance examinations are black. There is, however, one area where the vast majority of people are black: 82% of the poorest Brazilians are black.

Racial exclusion is evident when dealing with the institutions of the justice system. One symbolic example is the Judiciary, where recently published data by the National Justice Council (CNJ) reveal that 64% of Brazilian judges are men and 82% are white. Only 14% describe themselves as ‘pardos’ and 1% as black. Black lawyers and jurists in public service represent just 22% of the total. The number of black judges in the country’s Higher Courts is less than 10%.

“A heterogeneous and diversified society like ours deserves an equivalent justice system that is empowered in the struggle to reduce racial inequality and racism in Brazilian society, including in the formation of the personnel of these institutions,” said Rafael Custódio, coordinator of the Justice program at Conectas.

Given this scenario of disproportionality, we believe that affirmative action policies are fundamental in correcting the racial disparity in the country. This is already the case in higher education, where the black population used to represent 7% of all university students in 2002 and, a decade later, the figure had risen to 35%.

Affirmative action in the corridors of power helps reduce the marginality of a particular social group and it follows the spirit of the Constitution and the Racial Equality Act. It is also a way for Brazil to honor its international discourse. The country has been committed to promoting racial equality for four decades.

The existing laws permit the São Paulo Public Defender’s Office to adopt racial quotas in its public entrance examinations. “What is at stake is the opportunity for such a valuable institution for the democratic rule of law to take a step towards consolidating social justice, starting with itself, and implementing a racially democratic Public Defender’s Office,” said Sheila de Carvalho, a lawyer at Conectas.

Conectas togheter Articulation Human Rights Justice and Center for the Study of Labor Relations and Inequality rendered an opinion to the Superior Council of Public Defenser’s Office advocating the creation of such affirmative action policies.

Recently, dozens of jurists published a latter in favor of racial quotas in the contests of the Public Defender’s Office of São Paulo.

Read here article in Conjur on Affirmative Action in Advocacy

Read here the full text of the Opinion Conectas JUSDH and CEERT

Read here the letter of the jurists in favor of racial quotas in Advocacy

Find out more

Receive Conectas updates by email