Justina Mendonça Ferreira

Justina Mendonça Ferreira
Minister of Justice of Gylias
In office
2 January 1958 – 5 March 1976
Prime MinisterDarnan Cyras
Personal details
Born10 October 1910
Garés, Alscia
Died25 March 1995(1995-03-25) (aged 84)
Mişeyáke, Mişeyáke, Gylias
Political partyDemocratic Left
Alma materImperial University of Garés

Justina Mendonça Ferreira (Gylic transcription: Justina Mendonca Fyreira; 10 October 1910 – 25 March 1995) was a Gylian lawyer and politician. She was Gylias' justice minister in the Darnan Cyras government. She played an important role in institutionalising and consolidating the radical changes of the Golden Revolution through law, and was an influential participating in the drafting of the Constitution of Gylias and six codes of law.

Early life

Justina Mendonça Ferreira was born on 10 October 1910 in Garés. She came from a Lusitan family, and gained an interest in politics at an early age. She delivered her first political speech aged 16, in support of the Socialist Party during that year's local election.

She studied law at the Imperial University of Garés, and obtained full admission to practice law in 1938. She would frequently joke that she'd gained her law license just as Alscia was about to be dissolved by accession to the Free Territories.

She worked as a lawyer and notary in the Free Territories, and served in communal assemblies and as a delegate to the General Council. Her legal expertise proved valuable, and she mainly took on tasks related to the law and judicial system. This period laid the foundation for her later efforts to adapt her familiar civil law system to anarchist principles.

While serving in the General Council, she met Darnan Cyras, and became the first in what would grow to be an influential circle of allies that encompassed future cabinet colleagues and the ferroses. She felt that the success of their collaboration came from similar personalities — "quiet workhorses who stay out of the spotlight", as she later described it. She accepted Darnan's offer to join the post-war Executive Committee with the justice portfolio.

Minister of Justice

Justina took office with the rest of the Executive Committee on 2 January 1958. Her post was retroactively renamed "Minister of Justice" when the Constitution was adopted in 1961. She was initially independent, and then joined the Democratic Left after its establishment.

Justina played an important role in the legal aspects of the transition from the Free Territories to Gylias. As an Alscian-educated lawyer with experience in the General Council, she ably straddled both worlds and served as a bridging figure. She helped preserve much of the Free Territories' legal heritage in Gylian law. She took part in the popular drafting of the Constitution and six codes, and here made one of her famous declarations, that the purpose of Gylian law would be achieving "the minimum standards necessary to ensure the development of a free and flourishing society".

Instinctively more of a socialist, she did not show the same frustration with the "miserable compromise" as anarchists did. She attached a certain sentimental value to the Gylian revolutionary tradition that had produced the Keraþ constitution and the Alscian constitution, and advocated preserving some elements of them, even symbolically, as a link to the past.

Justina worked closely with fellow ministers Clarissa Rossetti and Tina Jørgensen in office. She viewed the role of the law as "establishing standards and getting out of people's way". Accordingly, her focus was largely institutionalist, aiming to keep the judiciary responsive to the public and prevent the law from usurping direct democracy. She brought in judicial review based on civil law principles — giving the Constitutional Court the role of scrutinising legislative proposals to ensure compliance with the Constitution but no powers to create or change legal principles.

Among the notable Free Territories innovations she entrenched into law were the abolition of the death penalty, the abolition of prisons, and the use of social quarantine areas to enact "expulsion from the community", the most severe punishment in the Penal Code.

Public image

A talented public speaker and campaigner, Justina nevertheless tended to shun the spotlight during her tenure, reasoning that the job of justice minister required gravitas, not showboating. She was known for her low-key demeanour and modest image. Her colleague Akane Tsunemori wrote in her diary that "Justina's quite refined image is belied by the phlegmy growl that passes for her voice, and her Lusitan habit of swallowing letters entirely."

Later life and death

Justina chose to leave politics at the end of her term, and did not run for re-election in 1976. She spent her next years in quiet retirement, punctuated by the occasional article in legal periodicals or contribution to books on law. She turned down interview requests, and declined offers to advise the Mathilde Vieira government, in contrast to colleagues like Theophania Argyris who returned to cabinet.

She died on 25 March 1995, aged 84.

Private life

Justina never married and had no children. She described herself as an atheist.