Brazil Supreme Court’s 1st Black Justice to Retire

Brazil Supreme Court’s 1st Black Justice to Retire

Joaquim Barbosa smiles during his inauguration ceremony at the Supreme Court in Brasilia, Brazil. (AP Photo)
Joaquim Barbosa smiles during his inauguration ceremony at the Supreme Court in Brasilia, Brazil. (AP Photo)

 

SAO PAULO (AP) — Supreme Court president Joaquim Barbosa, the only black judge to ever serve on Brazil’s high court, announced Thursday that he will take early retirement in late June.

Barbosa, who presided over a high-profile corruption trial in 2012 that sent more than 20 people to jail in a congressional payoff scheme, made the announcement during a regular session of the court.

Because of the trial, Barbosa became a household name in Brazil and was frequently mentioned as a potential presidential candidate. But earlier this year he said he had no desire to run for elective office.

His two-year term as Supreme Court president was due to expire in November, but the 59-year-old justice was far from the mandatory retirement age of 70 for the court’s judges.

Barbosa was appointed to the court in 2003 by then President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, becoming the first black on the court in a country where more than half the 192 million people identify themselves as being of African descent.

The 2012 corruption trial involving the congressional cash-for-votes scheme convicted 25 people, including the former chief of staff of da Silva. The case is known in Brazil as the “mensalao,” or big monthly allowance, for the sums of up to $10,000 handed over to politicians.

Widely seen as the biggest political corruption scandal in Brazil’s history, the case burnished Barbosa’s name while it did little to tarnish the reputation enjoyed by Silva, who left office after two 4-year terms on Jan. 1, 2011, with an 87 percent approval rating.

A former federal prosecutor, Barbosa taught law at Rio de Janeiro State University and was a visiting scholar at the Human Rights Institute of Columbia’s University School of Law in New York and the University of California’s Los Angeles School of Law.

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