About Us

The new Brazil-U.S. Legal and Judicial Studies Program at American University Washington College of Law is a comparative law program focused exclusively on Brazil and the United States and their respective legal and judicial institutions. Led by Senior United States District Judge Peter J. Messitte, the program is the first to offer a direct comparison of Brazilian legal and judicial institutions with those of the United States.

Traditionally, the Brazilian legal and judicial systems have been studied as just one part of Latin American legal and judicial systems in general, without reference to important differences.  Similarly, Brazilian judges, lawyers, academics and students have attended law schools in the U.S. to study American law, without considering particular comparisons between the Brazilian experience and the American.

The program offers participants a firmer understanding of both Brazilian and U.S. systems and transmits substantial practical knowledge as the two countries continue to increase their interaction with one another.


The Brazil-U.S. Legal and Judicial Studies Program coordinates seminars on various comparative law issues for Brazilian judges, legal professionals, academics, and students, and also assists those in the U.S. who wish to have comparable introductions to Brazilian law. The program taps into the collaboration of Brazilian lawyers who reside and work in the Washington, D.C. region, and Brazilian professors and judges who frequently visit the city.

In addition to organizing new events and initiatives, the Program coordinates activities that already exist between American University Washington College of Law and Brazil in such areas as international and commercial arbitration, intellectual property and environmental law.


The Brazil-U.S. Legal and Judicial Studies Program is headed by Senior U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte, a longtime friend and colleague of the Brazilian Judiciary and Bar.  Judge Messitte is a former Member of the International Judicial Relations Committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference, where he chaired the Working Group on Latin America and the Caribbean.  He is currently a member of the Advisory Council of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative for Latin America and the Caribbean.  Judge Messitte speaks fluent Portuguese and has written and spoken widely about Brazil-U.S. legal and judicial topics for many years.

Renata Brazil David is the Associate Director of the Program. Prior to joining the Brazil-U.S. Legal and Judicial Studies Program, Dr. Brazil David was the Director of Legal Affairs for the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO), an intergovernmental organization with 149 member countries, which oversees the provision of public telecommunications services on a global basis.  Dr. Brazil David is a Brazilian national who received legal education in Brazil, England and the US. She holds an LL.M. in International Trade Law from the University of Essex in England, and an S.J.D. (Ph.D. in Law) from American University Washington College of Law.

The Program is being advised by distinguished lawyers, judges, and law professors from both Brazil and the United States.