Brazilian judge known for fighting corruption, charging powerful political officials

In an email sent out to the student body October 29, University President Father John Jenkins, CSC, announced Judge Sérgio Moro as the 2018 commencement speaker. The Brazilian judge, largely unknown on campus prior to the announcement, is esteemed by many for his leadership in the anti-corruption movement in his home country.

Moro, who now works in the Brazilian city of Curitiba, earned his bachelor’s of law degree at Maringa State University in 1995 and shortly after became a federal judge in Brazil in 1996. Two years later, he took part in a study abroad program at Harvard Law School, and in 2002 he earned his doctorate at the Federal University of Paraná.

In 2007, Moro participated in the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program to learn about the efforts made by U.S. agencies and institutions to crackdown on money laundering and other financial crimes. Moro’s interest in these types of judicial cases lead to his discovery of the “Clean Hands” corruption investigations which took place in Italy in the 1990s. There, a nationwide judicial effort exposed thousands of corrupt political and industry leaders, leading to hundreds of arrests and the dissolvement of over 400 city and town councils. The tactics used by Italian judges, such as pretrial detentions and plea bargains, would later be utilized by Moro in his efforts to fight corruption in Brazil. Now known for those tactics, Moro has an established record fighting corruption in Brazil.

Major investigations in Brazil over the past three years, led primarily by Moro and commonly known as “Operation Car Wash,” have resulted in the convictions of nearly a hundred powerful political officials for money laundering, bribery, and other financial crimes. Most notable of the convictions is that of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was the nation’s executive from 2003 to 2010 and leads in polls for the country’s upcoming presidential election. Moro himself has been included in polls for the presidential election and pulled large amounts of support among the Brazilian public despite vowing to never get involved in politics.

On top of convicting former president da Silva, Moro also took on top-level officials at state-run oil company, Petrobras, for bribery, collusion, and other crimes in the nation’s largest-ever corruption scandal. Bribes in the case have totaled over three billion dollars, and the investigation has led to over 100 arrests.

In recognition of his fight against corruption, Moro was listed as 13th in Fortune magazine’s “World’s Great Leaders” list, as well as on Time magazine’s list of the “World’s 100 Most Influential People” in 2016. Additionally, Moro was awarded the Notre Dame Award this past October by Father Jenkins, who traveled to Brazil to bestow the honors.

“Earlier this month in São Paulo, Brazil, I presented Judge Moro with the Notre Dame Award, and found him a courageous, conscientious, humble public servant dedicated to justice and the common good,” Fr. Jenkins shared in his email to the student body.

The Notre Dame Award, created in 1992 for the 150th anniversary of the University’s founding, is to be awarded to “women and men whose life and deeds have shown exemplary dedication to the ideals for which the University stands: faith, inquiry, education, justice, public service, peace and care for the most vulnerable.” The University relaunched the award, which had not been given to anyone since 2000, as part of its 175th anniversary celebration. Moro follows in the footsteps of past recipients such as President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, Jean Vanier, and Saint Teresa of Calcutta in receiving the award.

Seniors Michael Krebs and Sarah Drumm shared their reactions to the announcement with the Rover:

“I had never heard of Judge Moro prior to the announcement. From what I can tell, he sounds like a very compelling, influential leader who will most likely have a wealth of experience to share with us at graduation,” Krebs said. “Of course, a more recognizable name would have been fun, but I am intrigued by Moro’s story, regardless, and am not greatly concerned with his not being a household name in the United States.”

Drumm reflected on the speaker choice in comparison to previous commencement speaker selections such as Vice President Mike Pence and former President Barack Obama. “I am slightly relieved that my class didn’t get a controversial speaker. There are times and places where I believe controversy might be appropriate,” she said. “However, I don’t believe commencement is the right place for that. It should be about celebrating the graduates, not making them feel uncomfortable.”

The 173rd commencement ceremony will take place on May 20 in the Stadium.

Matt Connell is a junior studying marketing and constitutional studies. A resident of Sorin College, his career goal is to market the constitution, though he fears that it may be an extremely otterous task. You can contact him at