By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The former Minister of Justice of Brazil, Alexandre de Moraes, was sworn in as the newest Supreme Court Justice on Wednesday, amidst criticism and praise. Moraes takes over the seat left by Justice Teori Zavascki, who died in a plane crash in January.
“It is with great happiness, with great honor, with great responsibility that I assume this position of minister of the Federal Supreme Court,” said Moraes in a brief press conference with journalists after the swearing in ceremony.
And although he reiterated he would assist the Court in defending fundamental rights, combating corruption and combating crime, Moraes did not answer journalists questions regarding the Lava Jato investigations and whether or not he would excuse himself from cases dealing with members of the Temer administration.
The nomination itself received criticism, with opposition politicians stating that President Temer was making a political choice that could help his party stay out of the Lava Jato investigation. “The nomination has a clear political content,” PT party leader in the Senate Humberto Costa told local media when Moraes was nominated. “I don’t think he will not do anything to improve the work of the Supreme Court. I think it (nomination) is an attempt to interfere with cases that are in Court,” added the senator.
According to local media outlets the new minister is expected to receive about 7,000 cases when taking office in court including issues such as the decriminalization of the possession of drugs. The Lava Jato investigation cases, handled by late Justice Zavascki have been handed over to Supreme Court Justice Luiz Edson Facchin.
Prior to being appointed Minister of Justice by President Michel Temer, Alexandre de Moraes was São Paulo State’s Public Security Secretary and has close ties with both Temer’s PMDB party and São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin’s PSDB party.
Critics questioned the nomination stating that although not heading the Lava Jato cases, Moraes may try to halt or slowdown the investigations now that prosecutors have started to closely look at politicians and high officials linked to the mega-corruption scandal. Among those being named in the plea-bargaining agreements are some Temer cabinet members, who have become close to Moraes in the past year.
The new minister may stay in the Supreme Court until 2043, when he turns 75, the deadline for compulsory retirement.