Working Paper

IDS Working Paper 181

Notes on Access to Justice in a Megalopolis: São Paulo, Brazil

Published on 1 January 2003

Access to justice has been recognised as a fundamental right that is essential for the enjoyment of all other rights. In Brazil this right is guaranteed to all citizens by the Federal Constitution of 1988. To guarantee the exercise of this right, the Constitution includes among basic rights, the right to full and free public legal assistance. It also mandates that state governments create a Public Legal Defence. In practice, however, full and free public legal services have not materialised.

This paper discusses how legal assistance is delivered in Brazil and in particular in the city of São Paulo. It analyses the structure and services of the Office for Legal Assistance (PAJ), which provides free legal assistance in São Paulo. The paper also provides a descriptive analysis of the types of individuals who have sought these services. One of the most significant finds reported in the paper is that the PAJ falls far short of constituting the Constitutionally required Public Legal Defence and that PAJ?s approach to legal assistance is charity-oriented and conflicts with basic notions of citizenship. The paper also reports, however, that individuals that seek public legal assistance regard the legal services provided by PAJ as satisfactory and tended to trust public attorneys more than private lawyers did. Furthermore, it suggests that these individuals are aware of their rights and know that the judicial system is where one can make those rights effective.

Cite this publication

Cunha, L.G. (2003) Notes on access to justice in a megalopolis : São Paulo, Brazil, IDS Working Paper 181. Brighton: IDS

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published by
Luciana Gross Cunha
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