Behaviors Matter: Dilemmas and Side-Effects of the Brazilian Supreme Court's Behavior during President Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment

In 2016, Brazil experienced the second presidential impeachment since the transition to democracy in 1985. It followed, in many respects, the pattern Pérez-Linãn had previously described as typical in Latin America for such an outcome: weak military, strong media coverage, popular protests, and loss of support in Congress. Yet Pérez-Linãn does not go much further in connecting impeachments to particular behaviors of the judicial system. In President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, the Supreme Court clearly transformed itself from a simple arbiter of the game into one of the central players of the game. It was, though, strongly engulfed by the political crisis and saw its authority increasingly questioned, especially during the 2018 national elections. Drawing from the Brazilian case, this paper explores the dilemmas of activism and self-restraint of Supreme Courts during such traumatic moments. It also questions how such behaviors can shape the Court from that moment on.