Accessing Brazilian Legislative and Judicial Information: Review

COVID-19 Reports on Latin America and the Caribbean: No. 67 (Em Português)

On September 21, 2021, two speakers gave two separate presentations on the panel, Accessing Brazilian Legislative and Judicial Information. João Alberto de Oliveira Lima – Legislative Informatics Analyst at the Federal Senate talked about how access to legislative and legal information can benefit from the Institutional Theory of Law as it allows managing this information using the concept of legal institution. Next, Janice Silveira – Director of the Library of the Chamber of Deputies gave an overview of the main digital law libraries of the federal judiciary and the federal legislative, with an emphasis on the types of content provided by these repositories. 

The importance of the institutional theory of law for the management and access to Legislative InformationJoão Alberto de Oliveira Lima – Legislative Informatics Analyst at the Federal Senate, Brazil

It was during his doctorate in law that the panelist noted the importance of the institutional theory of law for the management and access to legislative information. The main object of libraries is the work (which is cataloged, described, and indexed), and in archives, the main object is the record (which is organized according to a classification plan, temporality table, among others). 

The Brazilian parliament, on the other hand, presents bills and legal norms as secondary objects (even if not all bills become legal norms).

In the country’s parliament, the main object is the legal institution, which involves a context of facts and social objects. For John Searle (1995), money, private property, the State, and marriages are examples of things that exist in the social world and are seen as objective facts because they do not depend on any person’s preference.

The panelist explains that the new institutionalism, is an approach in law, was influenced by classical institutionalism, positivism, and the philosophy of language.

One of the main thinkers of the philosophy of language is John Searle, who since 1969 has published works on the subject. This same author wrote the general theory of institutional facts. 

To understand institutional facts, it is necessary to understand that brute facts are independent of human agreement, while social facts occur with the interaction of more than two beings with collective intentionality.

So institutional facts are the social facts that depend on the human agreement. 

The panelist explains that to understand institutional facts, it is necessary to understand what can be done with language. The illocutionary act is the minimum unit of human linguistic communication.

Therefore, the uses of language consist of the locutionary act, the illocutionary act, and the perlocutionary act. 

The illocutionary act can be classified into assertive, directive, compromising, expressive, and declarations. Assertions commit the speaker to a description of the world. Directives try to direct the listener to do something determined by the speaker. Commitatives commit the speaker to future actions. Expressives seek to express a psychological state about a state of affairs. And declaratives seek to change the world by declaring a state of affairs.

This is not just a linguistic issue, but a subject’s intentionality. An example is a declaration that two people are married by a person qualified for this purpose. This declaration alters reality and as a result, generates documents.

Therefore, an enacted text of a law is a declarative and directive act.

The institution is a system of constitutive rules that creates all the possibilities of institutional facts, like a mold, a form.

Neil MacCormick and Ota Weinberger published works inspired by Searle’s theory. In MacCormick’s (1986) view, the institution is not a system of rules, but a legal concept with an associated system of rules.

The legal concept is regulated by sets of institutional, consequential, and terminative rules whose instances exist over a period of time, from the occurrence of an institutional act or event to the occurrence of a terminative act or event.

Institutions also have systematizing power, which makes it possible to break complex corpuses of laws into simpler sets and to treat large corpuses of laws in an organized and generalized way.

According to Paulo Du Pin Calmon (Unb – University of Brasilia), the basic functions of the Legislative Power are to legislate, represent and supervise.

The panelist presented some examples of legal institutions produced by institutional facts. These are norms, legal proposals, pronouncements, public policies, government programs, regulatory agencies, radio and television concessions, political parties, among others.

The panelist explains that for the parliament, the main object of interest must be the legal institution.

In the question section, the panelist was asked about the visibility of digital libraries. He believes that saving users’ time should be a basic premise for institutions. About the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic, the panelist believes that it was a process that accelerated the digitization and availability of information seeking to save the reader’s time, as defended by Ranganathan. Another question related to access to information was answered considering the ease that content providers must grant to users.

Overview of Brazilian digital law libraries and information service providersJanice Silveira – Director of the Library of the Chamber of Deputies, Brazil

The second panelist, Janice Silveira, presented an overview of digital law libraries in Brazil. The librarian is a member of the GIDJ-DF (Legal Information and Documentation Group of the Federal District). 

The first library presented was the legal digital library of the Superior Court of Justice – BDJur. Maintained by the Superior Court of Justice (STJ), the library created in 2005 has about 145 thousand items. Among the materials are STJ legislation and documents, course materials, articles, periodicals, and books. Link: 

The second library is the digital library of the Federal Supreme Court (STF). Created in 2006, it has about 2900 items, including jurisprudence, doctrine, and STF publications. Link: 

Another digital library is from the Electoral Court. This library is maintained by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) and has about 8 thousand items. It was created in 2015 and has TSE legislation, doctrine, and institutional publications. Link: 

The digital library of the Labor Court – Juslaboris is maintained by the Superior Labor Court (TST). It has about 39 thousand items and was created in 2010. Among the documents in the collection are legislation, doctrine, and publications of the institution. Link: 

The Integral Institutional Repository – JMU is maintained by the Superior Military Court (STM). It was created in 2018 and has about 13 thousand items. Among the items in the collection are legislation, jurisprudence, doctrine, and institutional publications. Link: 

The digital library of the Federal Regional Court of the 1st region is maintained by the institution that gives it its name. It was created in 2014 and has about 225,000 items. Its collection comprises the institution’s legislation and publications, in addition to jurisprudence and doctrine. Link: 

The Federal Senate’s digital library was created in 2006 and has around 299 thousand items. It has legislation and publications from the Senate, as well as doctrines. Link: 

Another well-known library is the Chamber of Deputies digital library. It was created in 2009 and has about 6 thousand items. Like the others, it has institutional doctrine and publications, in addition to federal legislation. Link: 

After the presentation of the libraries, the panelist introduced some service providers. These simplify access to legal information. 

One of them is the Legislative and Legal Information Network – LexML Brasil. Maintained by Prodasen – Federal Senate, it was created in 2009 and has around 8 million items. It brings together laws, decrees, judgments, summaries, bills, and other documents from the federal, state, and municipal spheres. Its items are from the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary. Link: 

Another content provider is the consortium BDJur – Network of legal digital libraries. It is maintained by the Superior Court of Justice and was created in 2004. It has about 198 thousand items, including doctrine, legislation, and institutional publications at the Federal and State levels. It is formed by libraries of the Judiciary Branch. Link: 

The Integrated System of Legal Standards of the Federal District – SINJ-DF is the official system of legislation of the Federal District. Created in 2010, it has about 131,000 items. There is technical cooperation to maintain the network. The Legislative Chamber of the Federal District, the Attorney General of the Federal District, the Secretary of State for Economy of the Federal District, and the Court of Auditors of the Federal District carry out integrated management. Link:   

With this overview, the panelist concluded her presentation. Standardization and interoperability are factors observed in Brazilian digital libraries.

In the questions section, Marcelo Rodríguez asked about the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on access to legal information in Brazil. The panelist explained that there have been many changes, especially with the closing of physical libraries. With the employees working remotely, it was possible to shift the focus to digital platforms, which allowed access to information even with closed libraries. This shows the importance of standardization and digital repositories.

Another question was about the visibility of the tools presented to their sponsoring institutions. For the panelist, the visibility of digital libraries is a reality. In institutional repositories, people can find credible and reliable information. This brings visibility to institutions. In sum, the best tools for preliminary research would be BDJur and LexML which integrate most of the powers and have many items in the collection.

By Daniela Reis

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