He is a judge, but is no God

Recently, a great commotion about a court decision took place in Brazilian social media. As a consequence of pulling a magistrate over, a traffic warden was sentenced to indemnify him. Despite the fact that the judge was driving without his driver's license and the vehicle's plate, the court sentenced the traffic warden to pay the amount of 5,000 Brazilian Reals (around £ 1,250).

It was reported that the magistrate tried to prevent the removal of his vehicle, by using his authority to take the agent to a police station. The judge’s attempt to use his position to avoid the punishment led to a discussion. During the turmoil, the traffic warden allegedly insulted the magistrate by saying that he “is a judge, but is no God.” (EBC, 2014).

The court decision was reported by media and rapidly spread in social media in the beginning of November. People were outraged about a clearly example of lack of justice in Brazil. Some jurists blogged about the foundation of Brazilian society that, according to them, is hierarchical, conservative and archaic, where some individuals consider themselves superior to others (Gomes, 2014). However, the majority of posts on social media were created by ordinary people, whom used irony and humor as way to manifest their grievances.

The final judgment: “who are you to judge me?”

“Do you know with whom you are speaking?”
“You are God, but are not a judge!”

“Dad, is it true that God lives in the heaven?”

“Where He lives I don’t know… But it seems that He works in a court in Rio de Janeiro”.

If you want to speak with God…

It is interesting to notice that the “feelings of relative deprivation” (Klandermans & Van Stekelenburg, 2010) was not enough to make people go to streets. In this sense, it could be argued that the belief that the Brazilian justice is corrupted discourages people to protest. After all, they may not consider that the movement would have efficacy, since they do not have faith in justice institutions (Klandermans & Van Stekelenburg, 2010). Nevertheless, posts on social media are not a genuine kind of protest?

Although the protest has not left the Internet, some real effects have been achieved. Thanks to the repercussion on social media, the Bar Council of Lawyers of Brazil (OAB) decided to forward to the The National Council of Justice (CNJ)  a document with the compilation of complaints against the judge (UOL, 2014). According to the president of OAB, the institution received several complaints against the same magistrate after the story of the traffic warden.  After all, “stories call for more stories” (Polletta et al, 2011, p. 122) and their set may enforce a punishment to the judge.

A second real effect of the reaction on social media was the mobilisation to help the agent to pay the indemnity.  Since the justice had decided to keep the decision against the traffic warden, volunteers on social media raised around 40,000 Brazilian Reals (around £10,000). This mobilisation, rather than be a sign of public resignation (does not worth to complaint, therefore its is better to pay the amount), it is a sign that there is a belief that this kind of injustice affects everybody’s lives. According to the lawyer responsible for the initiative, the court decision "is a provocation to all those who defend the right to equality."

In addition, the reaction of the traffic warden complements this notion of solidarity. She affirms that the amount is going to be donated to the victims of traffic accidents and that she will appeal to superior courts aiming justice (Globo, 2014). Therefore, the feeling of solidarity and awareness of common interest seems to permeate the public reaction to this case.


Polletta, F., Chen, P. C. B., Gardner, B. G., & Motes, A. (2011). The Sociology of Storytelling. Annual Review of Sociology, 37(1), 109–130. doi:10.1146/annurev-soc-081309-150106

van Stekelenburg, J. and Klandermans, B. (2010) The Social Psychology of Protest. Sociopedia.ica.