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Brazil: Federal Supreme Court Reaffirms Rule that Civil Police Cannot Go on Strike

(Apr. 24, 2017) On April 5, 2017, the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court reaffirmed by a majority vote an understanding that it is unconstitutional for the civil police (polícia civil) and other public servants who act directly in the area of public security to exercise the right to strike.  (Plenário Reafirma Inconstitucionalidade de Greve de Policias Civis, NOTÍCIAS STF (Apr. 5, 2017).) The decision was taken during the judgment of an extraordinary appeal with recognized general repercussions, which had been filed by the State of Goiás against a decision of the local Justice Tribunal (Tribunal de Justiça de Goiás).  (Id.) In that case the Tribunal’s decision on  the action filed by the State of Goiás against the Goiás Civil Police Union (Sindicato dos Policiais Civis de Goiás) guaranteed the right to strike because, in the understanding of the local Justice Tribunal, the complete prohibition of the police’s right to strike had not been imposed as it was not adopted by the legislature and it is not proper for the judiciary, acting as if it were the original legislature, to restrict that right.  (Id.)

In its decision, the Supreme Court stated that for purposes of general repercussions, the exercise of the right to strike, in any form or modality, is forbidden to civil police officers and all civil servants who act directly in the area of public security; the government is required to participate in mediation for these officers under the terms of article 165 of the Code of Civil Procedure, in order to give the officers a chance to give voice to their interests. (Id.)

Extraordinary Appeal (recurso extraordinário)

An extraordinary appeal is an appeal filed with the Federal Supreme Court contesting the decision (acórdão) of a lower tribunal that contradicts a constitutional norm, declares unconstitutional a federal law or treaty, or considers valid a law or act of a local government contested under the Constitution.  Its main purpose is to preserve the constitutional command violated.  (4 MARIA HELENA DINIZ, DICIONÁRIO JURÍDICO 77 (2005).)

General Repercussions (Repercussão Geral)

Constitutional Amendment No. 45 of December 30, 2004, included as a prerequisite for the admission of an extraordinary appeal the requirement that the constitutional question being raised present an issue with general repercussions. (Emenda Constitucional No. 45, de 30 de Dezembro de 2004, PLANALTO.)

In order for the Federal Supreme Court to examine the admissibility of an extraordinary appeal, which may be rejected only by agreement of two-thirds of its members, the appellant must now demonstrate the general repercussions of the constitutional questions argued in the case, as provided by law.  (Constituição Federal, art. 102 § 3, PLANALTO.)

According to the Federal Supreme Court, the purpose of the requirement for the admissibility of an extraordinary appeal being based on a constitutional issue of general repercussions is to define the jurisdiction of the Federal Supreme Court in trials of extraordinary appeals that have social, political, economic, or legal relevance that transcends the subjective interests of the case and, as a practical matter, to standardize the constitutional interpretation without requiring the Court to decide multiple identical cases on the same constitutional issue.  (“Finalidades,” Apresentação do Instituto, Supremo Tribunal Federal website (last updated Dec. 5, 2016).)