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Federal Supreme Court
Supremo Tribunal Federal
15°48′08″S 47°51′43″W / 15.80222°S 47.86194°W / -15.80222; -47.86194
Established28 February 1891; 133 years ago (1891-02-28)
LocationBrasília, Federal District, Brazil
Coordinates15°48′08″S 47°51′43″W / 15.80222°S 47.86194°W / -15.80222; -47.86194
Composition methodPresidential nomination with Senate confirmation
Authorized byConstitution of Brazil
Appeals fromState Courts of Justice
Judge term lengthLife tenure (mandatory retirement at age 75)
Number of positions11
Websiteportal.stf.jus.br Edit this at Wikidata
CurrentlyLuís Roberto Barroso
Since28 September 2023
Vice President
CurrentlyLuiz Edson Fachin
Since28 September 2023

The Federal Supreme Court (Portuguese: Supremo Tribunal Federal, [suˈpɾẽmu tɾibuˈnaw fedeˈɾaw], abbreviated STF) is the supreme court (court of last resort) of Brazil, serving primarily as the country's Constitutional Court. It is the highest court of law in Brazil for constitutional issues and its rulings cannot be appealed. On cases involving exclusively non-constitutional issues, regarding federal laws, the highest court is, by rule, the Superior Court of Justice.


The Justice, by Alfredo Ceschiatti in front of the Supreme Federal Court

The current court was preceded by the House of Appeals of Brazil (Casa de Suplicação do Brasil), which was inaugurated during the colonial era on 10 May 1808, the year that the Portuguese royal family (the House of Braganza) arrived in Rio de Janeiro after fleeing to Brazil.

The Brazilian proclamation of Independence and the adoption of the Imperial Constitution in 1824 preceded the establishment of the Supreme Court of Justice (Supremo Tribunal de Justiça) in 1829, which served as the Brazilian Empire's supreme court. With the fall of the monarchy and Brazil's first Republican Constitution, the current court was established.

Although the constitutional norms that regulated the creation of the court allowed Deodoro da Fonseca, Brazil's first president, to nominate an entirely new court, the president chose to nominate as the first members of the Supreme Federal Court the ministers who were then serving as members of the imperial court that preceded it.

Two hundred members have served on the court. The Constitution of 1891 provided that the court would have 15 members. When Getúlio Vargas came into power, the number of members was reduced to 11. The number was changed to 16 in 1965, but returned to 11 in 1969 and has not changed since. Of all Presidents of Brazil, only Café Filho and Carlos Luz (acting) never nominated a minister.

All judicial and administrative meetings of the STF have been broadcast live on television since 2002. The court is open for the public to watch the meetings.

On 8 January 2023, the building was attacked by supporters of the former president, Jair Bolsonaro.[1]


Alongside its appeal competence, mostly by the Extraordinary Appeal (Recurso Extraordinário), the Court has a small range of cases of original jurisdiction, including the power of judicial review, judging the constitutionality of laws passed by the National Congress, through a Direct Action of Unconstitutionality (Ação Direta de Inconstitucionalidade, or ADI). There are also other mechanisms for reaching the Court directly, such as the Declaratory Action of Constitutionality (Ação Declaratória de Constitucionalidade, or ADC) and the Direct Action of Unconstitutionality by Omission (Ação Direta de Inconstitucionalidade por Omissão or ADO).

Case law

In May 2009 The Economist called the Federal Supreme Court "the most overburdened court in the world, thanks to a plethora of rights and privileges entrenched in the country's 1988 constitution (...) till recently the tribunal's decisions did not bind lower courts. The result was a court that is overstretched to the point of mutiny. The Supreme Court received 100,781 cases last year."[2]

Overruling seems to be frequent in STF jurisprudence: "three years ago when the STF adopted the understanding that defendants who have a conviction upheld by a single appellate court may be sent to jail to begin serving their sentences. (...) The 2016 decision happened largely due to a change in opinion from Minister Gilmar Mendes (...). He had voted against sending defendants to jail after a single failed appeal in 2009, but changed his mind in 2016. Jump to 2019, and the circumstances – both political and judicial – have changed".[3]

President and Vice President

The President of the STF and its Vice President are elected by their peers for a two-year term by secret ballot. The incumbent president is Minister Luís Roberto Barroso.[4]

Reelection for a consecutive term is not allowed. By tradition, the most senior minister who has not yet served in the presidential role is elected as the president by the court members, to avoid politicisation of the court.

If all currently sitting members have already served in the presidential role, the rotation starts all over again. However, due to vacancies caused by the compulsory retirement age and subsequent appointment of new ministers, it is very rare for the cycle to be ever completed. Some ministers are forced to retire before their turn for the presidency arrives, as was expected to happen with Teori Zavascki.

According to the same convention, the minister who is next in the line of succession for the presidency will serve as the vice-president for the time being. Also by tradition, the elections of the president and vice-president are never unanimous, there being always one isolated minority vote in each election, as the ministers who are to be elected never cast their votes for themselves; such votes are cast either for the dean of the court—its most senior member—or for some other elder minister that the one to be elected admires and wants to pay homage to.

The chief justice is also the 4th in the presidential line of succession, when the President of the Republic becomes prevented to be in charge, being preceded by the Vice President, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, and the President of the Federal Senate, as provided in Article 80 of the Brazilian Constitution.[5]

Current members

The eleven judges of the court are called Ministers (Ministros), although having no similarity with the government body of ministers. They are appointed by the President and approved by the Federal Senate. There is no term length but a mandatory retirement age of 75.[6]

  Former president of the Court.     President of the Court.     Vice-President of the Court.
Order of
Minister[M] Born (date and state) Appointed by Age at inauguration Initial date
Limit date
Main previous functions

Gilmar Ferreira Mendes

30 December 1955 in

Mato Grosso

Cardoso 46 20 June 2002 30 December 2030 Prosecutor of the Republic (1985–1988), deputy chief for Legal Issues of the Chief of Staff (1996–2000), Attorney General of the Union (2000–2002)

Cármen Lúcia Antunes Rocha

19 April 1954 in

Minas Gerais

Lula 52 21 June 2006 19 April 2029 Attorney of the State of Minas Gerais (1983–2006)

José Antonio Dias Toffoli

15 November 1967 in

São Paulo

Lula 41 23 October 2009 15 November 2042 Lawyer (1991–2009), deputy chief for Legal Issues of the Chief of Staff (2003–2005), Attorney General of the Union (2007–2009)

Luiz Fux

26 April 1953 in

Rio de Janeiro

Rousseff 57 3 March 2011 26 April 2028 Prosecutor of Public Prosecutor's Office of Rio de Janeiro (1979–1982), judge of the state of Rio de Janeiro (1983–1997), desembargador of the Justice Court of the state of Rio de Janeiro (1997–2001), minister of STJ (2001–2011)

Luís Roberto Barroso

11 March 1958 in

Rio de Janeiro

Rousseff 55 26 June 2013 11 March 2033 Lawyer (1981–2013), Attorney of the State of Rio de Janeiro (1985–2013)

Luiz Edson Fachin

8 February 1958 in

Rio Grande do Sul

Rousseff 57 16 June 2015 8 February 2033 Lawyer (1980–2015), Attorney of the State of Paraná (1990–2006)

Alexandre de Moraes

13 December 1968 in

São Paulo

Temer 48 22 March 2017 13 December 2043 Prosecutor of the Public Prosecutor's Office of the state of São Paulo (1991–2002), lawyer of public law (2010–2014), minister of Justice and Public Security (2016–2017)

Kássio Nunes Marques

16 May 1972 in


Bolsonaro 48 5 November 2020 16 May 2047 Desembargador of the Regional Federal Court of the 1st Region (2011–2020)

André Luiz de Almeida Mendonça

27 December 1972 in

São Paulo

Bolsonaro 48 16 December 2021 27 December 2047 Attorney General of the Union (2019–2021), Minister of Justice and Public Security (2020)

Cristiano Zanin Martins

15 November 1975 in

São Paulo

Lula 47 3 August 2023 15 November 2050 Lawyer (2000–2023)

Flávio Dino de Castro e Costa

30 April 1968 in


Lula 55 22 February 2024[7] 30 April 2043 Minister of Justice and Public Security (2023–2024), Governor of Maranhão (2015–2022), Senator for Maranhão (2023), Federal Judge (1996–2006)


  • M. ^ Names in bold are the names used in social denomination.[8]

In relation to other courts

The 92 courts of the Brazilian judiciary
State Federal
0 Supreme Federal Court
Federal superior courts


Court of Justice
27 Federal Regional Courts
TRF1 .. TRF6
Court of
Military Justice
3 Electoral Justice Courts
TJM Regional Labor Courts
30 62

See also



  1. ^ Nicas, Jack; Spigariol, André (8 January 2023). "Bolsonaro Supporters Lay Siege to Brazil's Capital". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 12 January 2023.
  2. ^ "Brazil's supreme court: When less is more". The Economist. 21 May 2009. Archived from the original on 25 May 2009.
  3. ^ Recondo, Felipe; Seligman, Felipe (5 November 2019). "Brazil's Supreme Court Used to Terrify Politicians. Not Anymore". Americas Quarterly. Archived from the original on 10 November 2019.
  4. ^ Patriolino, Luana; Souza, Renato (28 September 2023). "Luís Roberto Barroso toma posse como presidente do Supremo" [Luís Roberto Barroso takes office as President of the Supreme Court]. Correio Braziliense (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 30 September 2023.
  5. ^ Brazilian Constitution Archived 21 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine (in Portuguese)
  6. ^ "Composição Atual" (in Brazilian Portuguese). Supremo Tribunal Federal. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Flávio Dino visita o STF e prevê para fevereiro de 2024 a posse como ministro da Corte". G1 (in Brazilian Portuguese). 14 December 2023. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  8. ^ "Pastas dos ministros" (in Brazilian Portuguese). Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF). Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  9. ^ "O Brasil tem 91 tribunais - Para Entender Direito" [Brazil has 91 courts - Understand the Law]. Folha de S. Paulo (in Portuguese). 20 October 2010. Archived from the original on 3 September 2015.
  10. ^ DataSelf (8 January 2021). "Conheça as diferenças e funções dos tribunais brasileiros" [Know the differences and functions of the Brazilian courts] (in Portuguese). DataSelf. Retrieved 28 June 2023.
  11. ^ Conselho Nacional de Justiça. "Tribunais - Portal CNJ" [Courts - CNJ Portal]. National Council of Justice (in Portuguese). Retrieved 28 June 2023.