Recognition, Redistribution and Popular Participation: Towards an Integrative Judicial Policy

The 20 Years of the National Network of Popular Lawyers

The 20 Years of the National Network of Popular Lawyers

October 05th, 2015

Between November 25 and 29, 200 lawyers will meet in Brasilia to celebrate the 20 years of RENAP, the largest and oldest organization in the Brazilian popular legal field.

The network was set up in 1995 by the Landless Movement and Pastoral Land Commission to counter an offensive by delegates, prosecutors and judges who orchestrated land claims as a crime.

The accusations and inquiries made against the landless rural workers in Paraíba had the same basis as those elaborated in the interior of Paraná. Collective political action to plead for constitutionally guaranteed rights was framed as gang formation and a host of other crimes, and even if the perpetration of such offenses was never concretely demonstrated, workers' leaders were arrested through unfunded decrees.

This led the workers to understand that legal struggle was strategic for politics. Thus, these organizations encouraged the creation of a national network of popular lawyers to counter the attack of conservative sectors of law trying to criminalize the action of these social movements. At first, no more than 10 nationwide. They were lawyers from churches, pastoralists, trade unions, and leftist parties who jointly contributed by giving legal advice to the workers.

Another perception that this organization came to have was that it was necessary to qualify the performance of these legal actors with the help of great jurists, sympathetic to the cause. Thus, courses and seminars emerged where common experiences and coping strategies were exchanged. The elaboration of plays took place collectively, which broke law practice paradigms, often focused on individual action.

The creation of RENAP soon began to bear fruit. Decisions favorable to workers began to emerge. Victorious theses were created and it can be said today that the struggle of landless rural workers has a well-established respectable favorable case law. Some are emblematic, such as those of ministers Luiz Vicente Cernichiaro and Paulo Medina of the STJ and Celso de Mello at the STF.

From this struggle against hegemonic thinking in law, two fundamental books have emerged in which great jurists comment on judicial decisions made in the context of the struggle for land. The first was “The Agrarian Question and Justice” by RT and, later, “Agrarian Question, Commented Judgments and Opinions” by the method publisher.

It was also from RENAP that the first class of law formed exclusively by campers and sons and daughters of settlers and small farmers at the Federal University of Goiás - Goiás Velho Campus. Two other classes were opened, one at the Federal University of Feira de Santana and another at the Federal University of Paraná.

Currently there are 600 professionals spread all over Brazil. The struggle of these lawyers, although against hegemony, is important to question the dominant view of law, still positivist and conservative. When RENAP turned 5, former Senator Jose Paulo Bisol launched a challenge. He said he would like to see where everyone would be in the next 5 years, if they weren't caught taking care of their own lives, leaving the mystique of social transformation in the background. For RENAP has completed another five, ten and now reaches twenty years more consolidated than ever. Hopefully RENAP will be able to continue overcoming the challenge of the great senator and resist for another 20 years.

Patrick Mariano, 35, lawyer, PhD student at the University of Coimbra / Portugal.