Cristiano Zanin: Lula rewards the lawyer who got him out of prison with a position as a judge in the Supreme Court of Brazil | International

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Cristiano Zanin, left, at an event with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.Europa Press/Contact/Vanessa Carvalho (Europe Press/Contact/Vanessa Ca)

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva decided to reward the lawyer who managed to get him out of prison with a position as a judge on the Federal Supreme Court, Brazil's highest court. Cristiano Zanin, 47, will occupy one of the 11 seats that became vacant with the retirement of another judge last April. His name sounded like the favorite from the beginning, despite the controversy it could generate due to personalism and the close link between Lula and the future judge. "Everyone expected that I would appoint Zanin, not only because of the role he played in my defense, but simply because I believe that Zanin will become a great judge on the Supreme Court of this country," Lula said Thursday when confirming the appointment. For it to become effective, the lawyer will have to be approved by the Senate, but the process is taken for granted. Supreme Court judges retire obligatorily at the age of 75. Due to his age, Zanin, the youngest of the magistrates, could be in the Supreme Court until the year 2050.

Lula's election is a reward for loyalty. When Zanin began to defend him in the Car Wash Operation processes, lawyers close to the Workers' Party (PT) questioned his competence to deal with such a relevant process, because until then he was better known for his actions in the Business field. Zanin always based his defense strategy on the thesis of lawfare: Lula was the victim of judicial persecution that sought to remove him from power at all costs. That position cost him confrontations with heavyweights of Brazilian law, such as former Supreme Court judge José Paulo Sepúlveda Pertence, who entered the defense leading a movement that sought to convert Lula's imprisonment in Curitiba into house arrest. Zanin refused, considering that the measure would weaken the claim that Lula was innocent. The lawyer even brought the sentence against Lula to the UN Human Rights Committee, which agreed with him, considering that the leftist leader did not have the right to a fair trial and that his political rights were violated. Zanin opted for the epic and over time his plan worked. The leaking of conversations in which the then judge Sérgio Moro worked side by side with the prosecutors to corner Lula, finished paving the way for the annulment of the processes.

Placing his personal lawyer in the Supreme Court also has a lot to do with Lula's personal vendetta against Moro. The judge who sentenced him to nine years in prison for corruption, thus removing him from the 2018 presidential race, dreamed of becoming a Supreme Court magistrate. When he became Minister of Justice in the Government of Jair Bolsonaro, this movement was interpreted as a previous step for the far-right leader to choose him for the coveted court. The relationship between the two broke down, Moro was left without his prize and now he is trying not to lose all his political capital from his seat as senator. In the four years that he was president, Bolsonaro had the opportunity to appoint two Supreme Court judges, and although they are conservative magistrates, they did not have as close a bond with him as Zanin did with Lula. Yes, there was some commotion when he promised to appoint a “terribly evangelical” judge to please his religious constituency. He appointed André Mendonça, jurist, Presbyterian pastor and his until then Minister of Justice.

The predictable criticism of Lula from the right over his appointment is joined by voices from the left who lament that the president has missed an opportunity to bring some diversity to a very white and masculine institution. According to a count by the organization GĂŞnero e NĂşmero, Zanin will be the 165th white man in a court through which 170 magistrates have passed in 132 years. Only 2.4% women, and 2.7% black men. Black women, the nation's largest demographic, never held a seat. Zanin is also criticized because beyond Lula's defense he is a great unknown. To what extent he will be a progressive judge is anyone's guess. There are hardly any public statements by him that help to intuit what he thinks about labor or reproductive rights, for example. Another vacant position will open in October and Lula will be able to place another judge. Or judge.

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