BRASILIA (Reuters) - President Dilma Rousseff nominated a law professor close to leftist social groups on Tuesday to sit on Brazil's Supreme Court as it begins to investigate dozens of ruling coalition politicians for corruption.
If confirmed by the Senate, Luiz Edson Fachin, a civil law expert from Parana state, will take the seat of Joaquim Barbosa, the former chief justice who retired last year after leading Brazil's highest-profile political corruption trial to date.
Rousseff, who was narrowly re-elected last October, has been criticized for taking more than eight months to fill the 11th seat on the top court that will play a key role in a widening probe into a bigger scandal involving graft and political kickbacks at state-run oil company Petrobras.
Seeking support for her nomination of Fachin, Rousseff met earlier on Tuesday with the president of the Brazilian Senate, Renan Calheiros, one of the 47 politicians under investigation for allegedly receiving bribes in the Petrobras scandal.
A professor of the philosophy of law, Fachin's libertarian view of civil law and property rights made him a defender of land reform and the cause of social groups such as the MST landless peasants movement that began in his state.
"He follows a very progressive line of civil and constitutional law. More than a lawyer, he is a humanist," said Gabriel Petrus, who studied law under Fachin at the Parana Federal University.
Rousseff's decision to pick a progressive linked to social groups will balance Brazil's increasingly conservative Congress, said Petrus, an analyst with the Brasilia-based consultancy Barral M Jorge Associates.
Despite his progressive views, Fachin's nomination to the Supreme Court won the full backing of lawmakers from his state, including Senator Alvaro Dias of the PSDB party, a fierce critic of the ruling Workers' Party, in power since 2003.
All but three Supreme Court justices have been picked by Rousseff or predecessor and mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Eduardo Simões; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)