Behind many of President Obama’s recent forays into the international arena lies the issue of whether the United States is to retain its sovereign status or merge into something that is new. Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have already decided cases by promoting theories that meld U.S. law with foreign law. Are international norms a prism through which U.S. Constitutional law should be interpreted?
MEDELLIN VS TEXAS was a 2007 death penalty case that decided whether the State of Texas must give a psychopath a new trial. Its sordid origins trace to 1993, when José Medellín, a Mexican national, murdered two Houston teenagers. He was sentenced to death by a Texas jury, but his lawyers argued on appeal that he hadn’t had access to Mexico’s consulate before he confessed to his crimes.
Mr. Medellin’s claim was that a violation of the 1963 VIENNA CONVENTION had occurred; diplomats are supposed to be notified when their nationals are arrested. Mexican authorities sued the U.S. in the International Court of Justice at The Hague. The ICJ ruled in Mexico’s favor, ordering states to give Medellín and some 51 other nationals new hearings. The question before the Supreme Court was whether such international dictates must be enforced by sovereign state courts.
Justice John Roberts, writing for the 6-3 majority, ruled that the ICJ finding was not binding because the Vienna Convention is a diplomatic compact that was never intended to automatically create new individual rights enforceable domestically by international bodies. Thus, Texas’s violation of diplomatic protocols called for a diplomatic remedy.
Treaty provisions must be in accord with the plain meaning of the Constitution as it is written, not as some would have them to be. This distinction establishes a fire wall between international and domestic law. The day may come when Washington State’s Attorney General has to defend the protections afforded by our state Constitution against treaties negotiated by folks in Washington, DC.
Washingtonians may just be a bunch of cowboys but so far we are sticking to our guns! Despite the opinions of some law professors and elitists that believe a treaty supersedes the U.S. and Washington state constitutions, we should continue to uphold our Washington State Constitution even if we need to do so in the face of new treaties and/or Medellín being reversed by SCOTUS at some time in the future.
MEDELLÍN also disposed of the Bush Administration’s claims of Presidential power. The Bush Administration had attempted to calm the diplomatic world by directing states to comply with the ICJ ruling in a 2005 executive order. The Court ruled that the President’s power is limited by the Constitution.
For many years, elitist lawyers and politicians have been claiming that the Constitution is always changing based on the needs of each generation. This is not rule of law but an argument for tyranny which would interlineate international norms in place of Constitutional norms.
The crowd that expressed outrage against Bush’s claims of executive power can’t wait to turn greater executive powers over to international politicians who have already banned many freedoms- including freedom of speech and religion- in Europe, Australia and Canada, to name a few! Be vigilant and watch for the propaganda blitz that is coming. If MEDELLÍN is reversed, UN mandates squelching free speech, gun rights and even the ability to practice your religion may follow.