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Judge Carroll, Professor Floyd, and Professor Smolin spent the week of September 19 in São Paulo, Brazil along with former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb. The primary event was a two-day constitutional law conference attended by approximately 700 people. The focus of the conference was on sumula vinculante a limited form of binding precedent that Brazil has adopted. Justice Cobb and Professor Smolin were conference speakers; the other speakers were professors and jurists from Brazil and Portugal. The conference was organized by Cristina Zucchi, a Desembargadora (Justice) in the Tribunal de Justiça do Estado de São Paulo (São Paulo State Supreme Court). Desembargadora Zucchi is also a Cumberland Adjunct Professor who teaches in the Cumberland Master of Comparative Law Program each June; she was our first Distinguished International Scholar in Residence last fall.
Brazil follows the civil law tradition derived from Continental European, which (unlike our common law system) does not traditionally give binding effect to prior case law decisions. Brazil’s move toward binding precedent has been influenced by Cumberland’s work there over the past 20 years, particularly the efforts of Professor Emeritus Bo Cole, who developed many of our relationships in Brazil. Professor Smolin and Chief Justice Cobb also spoke to the São Paulo City Council, and the Cumberland group had a series of meetings and social gatherings with numerous leading judges, lawyers, and civic leaders in São Paulo, which is the largest city in South America and one of the largest cities in the world.
Cumberland has a substantial and longstanding relationship with Brazil. Cumberland’s Master of Comparative Law (MCL) Program has been in operation since 1994, and has had 39 graduates to date. Professor Floyd took over responsibility for this program when Professor Cole retired. Each summer 10-12 students (mostly judges from Brazil) spend June in Birmingham taking classes toward the MCL degree requirements. Many of the MCL students also join JD students in Cumberland’s July summer study-abroad program in Cambridge.
Further information on Cumberland’s international programs is available at: