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      The Brazilian Legal System                                                                                                                                                        Law Firm • Brazil

Brazil is organized as a federative republic and the legal system is codified. Laws are issued by the federal government, the states and municipalities within their respective spheres of authority. The Brazilian legal system is of Roman tradition and all laws destined to regulate and discipline all kinds of situations must have been previously written and made public. The jurisprudence and academic opinions are very important sources in the making and interpretation of the laws, but aren’t of obligatory observance by all.

The legislative authority of the federal government, states and municipalities is specified and laid out in the Federal Constitution, thus avoiding the issuance of redundant or conflicting laws by each sphere of power. Federal laws take precedence and are hierarchically superior to any state or municipal law. The federal government has the exclusive authority to legislate on civil, commercial, penal, procedural, labor, electoral, agrarian, maritime, aeronautical and space matters. It's also exclusively Federal the authority to rule on matters such as expropriation, energy, telecommunications, insurance, foreign trade, nationality and citizenship, among others.

The federal government, the states and the Federal District (Brasilia) have concurrent authority to legislate on certain matters, like tax, financial, education, environment and the consumer. In these cases, the federal government provides the general guidelines, outlining main issues and rules, while the states and the Federal District are in charge of supplementary legislation according to their own specific needs, but always with due regard for the generic federal laws prescriptions. The municipalities legislative authority is restricted to matters of local interest and municipal taxes.

The head of the Brazilian legal system is the Federal Constitution. In its 250 articles one will find the citizens' fundamental rights and guarantees, the political and administrative organization of the Federal Republic of Brazil, the individual spheres of authority of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, the outlines of the Brazilian tax system and the fundamental labor rights, among other matters. Constitutional rulings are hierarchically superior to those of any other law.

Besides the Federal Constitution, the main legal documents in Brazil are the Codes. The most important are the Civil Code, the Tax Code, the Penal Code and the Civil Procedure Code. The Civil Code comprises over 2000 articles regulating matters such as Obligations and Contracts, Businesses and Corporations, Real Estate and related property rights, and many others. The Tax Code defines the main Brazilian tax regulations, which are complemented by many Federal, State and Municipal laws. The Penal Code brings the definitions of conducts considered crimes and the  punishments for anyone fitting the respective legal descriptions. Finally, the Civil Procedure Code regulates the due process of law.


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