Antonio de Souza Corrêa Meyer, senior partner of Machado, Meyer, Sendacz e Opice Advogados and president of law firms’ association CESA, is confident the campaign to get a law banning police raids on law firms will be passed by the president.
President Lula has until 12 August to sanction or veto the bill, which has been passed unanimously by both the Brazilian House and the Congress.
“There’s a school of thought that judges should react more to popular opinion than strictly the body of law,” says Meyer. “Some judges who follow that school, the attorney general, who is displeased with some lawyers, and the police who want to make their job easier, are opposing the bill’s sanction by the president.”
But the law is vital to the smooth running of the legal system, he says. “This law is not favourable to lawyers, it is favourable to the citizen trying to get protection from the judicial system – and the lawyer is instrumental in that.”

Last week CESA and the Union of the Societies of Lawyers of the States of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro launched a public campaign to back the bill (see here for more details (Íntegra abaixo)

The law originated from a raid on a law firm in 2005, in which police, operating under a judicial order which was not specific about the type of documents needed, used the raid as a “fishing expedition”, says Meyer. They took away the firm’s computers, giving them access to confidential documents entirely unrelated to the case.

Asked if the law would bring Brazil into line with US standards, Meyer replied, “I’m not an expert on US law – but I can say for certain there is no judicial order in the US which can allow police to remove all computers from a firm on the chance there is a relevant document to the case in question.”

Should Lula veto the bill, it will go back to Congress, which can overrule the presidential veto. “I do not believe Lula wants to run that risk,” says Meyer. “I’m confident of success.”
(Latin Lawyer online 04.08.2008)
Brazil’s bar backs ban on law firm raids
Brazil’s Congress is debating a law that would make it illegal for authorities to search law firms, unless the lawyers themselves are under criminal suspicion.
The Union of the Societies of Lawyers of the States of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (Sinsa) and the Centre of Studies of Law Firms (CESA) are mobilising the legal community to support the ‘Law 36/2006’, which would lay out when the law of inviolability would no longer apply.

They are trying to counter fears that with the passing of the law, lawyers’ offices would in effect become safe havens for evidence of criminal activity, enabling lawyers to act with impunity.

Jose Eduardo Haddad, director of Sinsa, argues that the law in fact would have important nuances: “This law is being presented as an unfair privilege for lawyers which would grant impunity to their activities. However, it is exactly the opposite - it establishes that offices can still be searched under certain conditions.”

According to the managing director of CESA, Belisário Dos Santos Jr, this regulation would help preserve two pillars of Brazil’s constitution: the inviolability of lawyers’ professional work, and the right to silence: “With the sanction of the law, some have argued that the law office would become a type of bunker for evidence of guilt. However, the moment the lawyer commits any crime, they will lose that immunity.”

To express these and other arguments, the managing president of Sinsa wrote an open letter to the Presidency and to the Ministry of Justice, explaining the organisation’s positions.

In the letter he argues that “the inviolability of the legal profession is not a privilege, but a democratic guarantee for the smooth running of society. However, to prevent this right being abused, the law will include provisions to define the limits of immunity from searches.”

The letter invokes three basic points in its argument: that the privacy of legal documents play a role in protecting citizens’ rights in a democratic society, innocent citizens’ right to privacy and protection, and professional secrecy of other professions, such as medicine and psychiatry.

Finally, the letter requests that “this Presidency shows the courage it has always demonstrated in defending democracy and its institutions. It should sanction ‘Law 36/2006’ and show that Brazilian society should not fear the return of a political dictatorship which it has already rejected.”
(Latin Lawyer online 01.08.2008)