Brazilian Legal System

Doing Business in Brazil

According to the Federal Constitution, the States have administrative competence or remaining competence to all subjects that are not privative of the Union and the Municipalities. This remaining competence of the States was originated in the American Constitution and followed by all Brazilian Constitutions.

Based on the Checks and Balances Principle, the Constitution defines as the powers of the Union, the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary branches as independents and harmonious.

Executive branch

The Executive branch is formed by the direct Public Administration, such as the Ministries and the indirect Public Administration such as public companies. As an unusual function, the Executive controls the Judiciary, choosing the Supreme Federal Court Justices and the judges from the other Superior Courts. It also acts together with the Legislative branch, participating in the creation of laws and sanctioning the projects. The person in command of the Federal Executive power is the President of the Republic who is the chief of State and the Government as well.

The president also commands the Armed Forces. In the State Executive branch, the supreme chief is the State governor, who controls the secretariat and their direct assistants, represents the Federal Union towards the Federal State and the other states, coordinates political, judicial and administrative relations and defends his state autonomy. The Municipal Executive branch has the mayor as its head. Each municipality has autonomy under the Federal Constitution and the State constitutions, being coordinated by an Organic Law, approved by two thirds of the Municipal Chamber.

Legislative branch

The Legislative branch is organized as the National Congress consisting of the House of Representatives and the Federal. The House of Representatives has 513 members with a four-year mandate and its population determines each state’s number of representatives. The Senate has 81 senators, 3 from each state and from the Federal District. The enactment of regulatory acts establishing rights or obligations is a function of the Legislative branch. Those acts may take form of amendments to the federal constitution, ordinary, supplementary and delegated laws, provisional executive acts, legislative decrees and resolutions.

Judicial branch

The Judicial Branch is exercised by The Supreme Federal Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal), the National Council of Justice (Conselho Nacional de Justiça), the Superior Court of Justice (Superior Tribunal de Justiça), the Regional Federal Courts of Appeal (Tribunais Regionais Federais) and Federal Judges. In addition, there are Special Courts for electoral, labor and military issues. The State-level Judicial System consists of state courts and state judges. 

The States in Brazil arrange their own judicial systems, with court jurisdiction defined in each State constitution. The five Regional Federal Courts of Appeal have constitutional jurisdiction on cases involving appeals towards the decision ruled by federal judges, and are also in charge of national interest cases. The jurisdiction of the Federal Judges include: being responsible for deciding most disputes in which one of the parties is the State; ruling on lawsuits between a foreign State or international organization and a Brazilian municipality or a person residing in Brazil; and judging cases based on treaties or international agreements of the State against a foreign State or international body.

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