State of São Paulo passes law diverting purpose of Public Defender’s Office

State Civil Police Officers are to receive legal assistance from the Public Defender’s Office, contrary to the Constitution

Projeto de lei é inconstitucional e prejudica o acesso à justiça das pessoas que não possuem condições financeiras Projeto de lei é inconstitucional e prejudica o acesso à justiça das pessoas que não possuem condições financeiras

Civil society organisations spoke up against the approval of Law nº 16.786, of 2018, published this Wednesday 4, allowing full, free legal assistance, by means of the State Public Defender’s office, to civil police in São Paulo who are involved in cases that require judicial support in the course of duty.

In a letter addressed to the Superior Council of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the State of São Paulo and the State Secretary of the Chief of Staff, organisations state that the draft bill, passed by the Governor Márcio França, is unconstitutional and undermines access to justice of those who do not have financial means and need to be represented by the Public Defender’s Office.

Fourteen years ago, the Supreme Court looked into a similar case, when the state of Rio Grande do Sul tried to adopt the same measure. The Supreme Court decision in ADI 3022 was that the measure was unconstitutional and this issue is being seen again with the law that has been approved in São Paulo. It is worth noting that civil police officers do not fall into the category of ‘extreme financial hardship’ that was established, in the state of Sao Paulo, for people who earn less than three times the minimum salary a month.

The organisations believe that transforming legal assistance for those in need into full legal assistance for civil police, makes the Public Defender’s Office into a kind of lawyer for civil servants.

“This distinction is against the principle of civil rights, given that anyone in the state of São Paulo who requires full legal assistance from this institution is subject to the criteria that define financial hardship, whilst civil police officers will receive this privilege automatically on the grounds that they work for the state and have a public role. This is detrimental to the rest of the population and to the public coffers.” Argue the organisations in the document.

The letter is signed by Conectas Human Rights and the Rede de Proteção e Resistência contra o Genocídio (Network for Protection and Resistance against Genocide).

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