A RESILIENT COURT? Vagueness and ambiguity in the Brazilian Supreme Court jurisprudence

Increasingly judges and courts resort to vagueness and ambiguity to deal with their limited policymaking skills and to build and maintain institutional prestige in the face of potential opposition (STATON, VANBERG, 2008). In the short run, this strategy has proven to be an important mechanism of compliance both to international and domestic courts’ (STERNBERG, 2018; STATON, ROMERO, 2019). But in the long run, can vague decisions damage courts’ authority or contribute to constitutional erosion in these countries? This paper aims to explore the intentional use of vagueness and ambiguity in Brazilian Supreme Court jurisprudence, based on a sample of COVID-19 decisions, a context in which the Chief Justice assumed the need for an extra component of resilience. While this strategy proved to be useful for shielding the court from political actors and giving a prompt response to civil society, the court decreased its levels of compliance putting at risk the 1988 constitutional design.