Brazilian president Lula da Silva's lawyer, Cristiano Zanin, 47, took a seat for life on the country’s Supreme Court on Thursday. Zanin helped Lula overturn convictions stemming from Brazil’s sprawling “Car Wash” corruption investigation and was freed after 580 days of incarceration.
When Lula appointed Zanin in June, he was the target of accusations from the opposition that he is jeopardizing and politicizing the impartiality of Brazil’s highest court by making a friend one of its justices. He is the youngest justice in the eleven member court.
Zanin, holds a law degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo, specializes in procedural and business law. Zanin managed to convince the Supreme Court to annul all convictions of Lula and in 2021 ruled that the judge overseeing the case had been biased.
That allowed Lula to run successfully for his third, non-consecutive presidential term.
In July, senators examining Zanin’s appointment questioned the lawyer about his ability to remain unbiased. He reminded senators he will not be able to judge on cases he worked on as a lawyer.
“My side has always been the same, the side of the constitution,” Zanin said. “For me, there is only one side; the other is barbarism, abuse of power.”
Lula, who in March called Zanin “his friend” on radio BandNews FM, backpedalled in a later interview. “He was not a friend, he was my lawyer,” Lula told Record TV in July after Zanin’s appointment had been approved by the Senate. “He is an extremely capable person ... He is very studious, he is very competent, he is very dedicated and he is very serious. This is the reason why he was chosen.”
On the campaign trail, Lula made a veiled criticism that then-President Jair Bolsonaro, his main opponent in the race, tried to politicize the Supreme Court. “I am convinced that trying to meddle with the Supreme Court to place a friend, to place a partner, to place a supporter is a setback,” Lula said.
Zanin is filling the seat vacated by the April retirement of Justice Ricardo Lewandowski. In Brazil, Supreme Court justices must retire at 75, an age that Justice Rosa Weber will reach in October.