The civil society of public prosecutors: the constitutional path for the Brazilian Ministério Público's major role in group litigation

The Brazilian “Ministério Público” (MP) is an agency that aims to prosecute and monitor the enforcement of criminal law, and also to protect relevant collective goods, such as the ones included in consumer and environmental regulations. These last sorts of powers—established by the first time in the 1934 Constitution and consolidated in the 1946 Constitution—are uncommon from a comparative perspective. The trend in the 1970s and the 1980s was to strengthen these powers even more. Although at first glance someone could think that these atypical powers are useful for enforcing pushing principles and fundamental rights, I argue that the MP has weakened civil society associations and harmed their legitimacy by excluding and discouraging collective associations from getting involved in crucial litigation procedures, triggering political backlashes to NGOs. Thus, a promising constitutional entrenchment mechanism has partially harmed Brazil’s constitutional democracy.