The Brazilian Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal, STF) is widely regarded as one of the more powerful high, constitutional tribunals in Latin America (Brinks 2005; Taylor 2008; Nunes 2010; Kapiszewski 2012). This power is often understood in terms of the effects of court decisions, effects which have been expanding to be more general and binding since the 1990s, giving the STF increasing policy-making authority (Desposato et al. 2015). The STF is also generally regarded as a very visible high court, due in large part to the media attention it has drawn in deciding major issues of national importance, including racial quotas and affirmative action, family status for same-sex couples, stem-cell research, land invasions, pension and tax reform, and political corruption (Taylor 2008; Kapiszewski 2012; Falcão and de Oliveira 2013; Desposato et al. 2015). However, with few exceptions (e.g., Falcão and de Oliveira 2013), an underexamined feature of the court is its unusually high transparency. Indeed, compared with its regional peers, and even with the US Supreme Court, the Brazilian STF can reasonably be called the most transparent high, constitutional court in the Americas.
This chapter offers three main contributions: (1) a descriptive documentation of this high transparency, (2) an examination of some of the sources of this transparency, including media relations, and (3) an examination of some of the implications of this transparency, especially regarding public opinion of the court. In documenting the STF's uncommon transparency, I draw on existing data on the openness of national courts across Latin America, specifically, a study of the web-based access to judicial information conducted by the Center for Judicial Studies of the Americas (Centro de Estudios Judiciales de las Americas, CEJA (N.d.)), which is an organ of the Organization of American States (OAS). In examining the sources of this transparency, I build on recent scholarship on the rising media coverage of the STF (Falcão and de Oliveira 2013), and also on the STF's data and documents on its own public relations operations and internal, intrainstitutional efforts to generate media coverage of itself.