'Our State Is Racist, But If I Call It Out, I'm Whining', Says Attorney Handcuffed During Hearing

Lawyer Valéria dos Santos was handcuffed for arguing with a magistrate in a court hearing

São Paulo

Lawyer Valéria Lucia dos Santos, 48, was handcuffed by policemen on Monday (10th) during a court hearing in Duque de Caxias, in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Valéria and the magistrate started an argument because the lawyer asked to examine the defense's petition. The magistrate denied the request and called the police.

People present in the hearing recorded videos, but they don't give a complete picture of the discussion. The Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) said that Valéria was "absolutely correct" and the act was a severe violation of her rights. The Rio de Janeiro Court of Justice issued a statement saying that the magistrate asked for police reinforcements "in order to contain an attorney who was refusing to follow the magistrate's directions."

Attorney Valeria Lucia dos Santos, 48, was handcuffed during a hearing on Monday, in Duque de Caixas' court - Folhapress

Valéria says she has felt prejudice at work and she doesn't feel represented in the legal system. However, she avoids associating her case with racism.

OAB's Rio de Janeiro chapter said it will sue the policemen and the magistrate. At the association's request, the initial audience was annulled and reschedule for the 18th, when it will be presided by a judge - in Brazil, a magistrate is a lawyer who assist in smaller courts, holding preliminary hearings, but the final decision on a case is from a judge.

Read below what Valéria's story, as told to Folha:


I only realized how racist the whole situation was when I was on the floor, handcuffed. The policemen grabbed me each one by one arm in the courtroom and dragged me to the hallway. I didn't act violently, I just didn't move. When we arrived in the hallway, they kicked my legs and fell seating then. Then they put the handcuffs.

That's when the Bar representative arrived. He was very stern: "Take the handcuffs off her now!” and the policemen promptly obeyed. It gets you thinking about how our society is organized. There is the plantation owner, the missus, and the overseer. And who was on the floor in handcuffs? Me.

The state is racist, you see? But if I call it out, I'm whining, it's victimization, so I don't want to associate what happened with racism, because I don't want to hear that kind of thing.

I was fighting for my right to do my job. Racism will happen again, I try not to think about it. But you can't take away my living.

That day, the magistrate had already started the audience with an unfriendly question. My client is also black and the magistrate asked us: "Are you both sisters?" I pretended I didn't hear it.

Things like that happen every day, but my fellow attorneys don't talk about it. I'll give you a simple example. Law has several formalities. There is a chair for the lawyer and a chair for the client. I sit in the lawyer's chair and judges ask me: "Madam, which one are you?"

Or they talk with other lawyers in the room, whom they know, but I still need to present my Bar Association card.

I'm not going to lie, I walk into a hearing and I don't feel represented at all. We are the minority in the Judiciary's institutional system.

Last time something like this happened, I chickened out, because I didn't want to cause turmoil. But that day in Caxias, I decided that this wasn't going to happen again. I had the right to see the defense's petition.
The magistrate denied. I left the courtroom to get the Bar representative, but he wasn't in his office. I told the assistant what was happening. When I came back, the magistrate had called the hearing off and told me to wait outside. I refused. She called the police.

That was a violation, so much that the hearing was rescheduled, this time with a judge. What happened there, both what I did, if I went overboard, both what she did, it was all nullified.

At the time I didn't cry, but I was weeping inside. It made me very upset. When I arrived home later, alone, I collapsed.

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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