Friday, April 22, 2005

The Supremes and International Law

This is what Justice O'Connor had to say abut the court's use of international law when making decisions.

WASHINGTON - Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on Thursday dismissed growing criticism about the Supreme Court’s use of international law in its opinions, saying it makes sense for justices to look at foreign sources when a point of law is unclear.
Aren't the Supremes supposed to determine what the point of law is based on the Constitution and laws of our country? What difference does it make how Sweden or France ruled on something? It might be a very similar case, but our Constitution is not theirs, our laws are not their laws.

O’Connor, a Reagan appointee, participated in a lively one-hour discussion at the National Archives with Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen G. Breyer. She said if there is no controlling U.S. precedent or the viewpoint of states is unsettled, “of course we look at foreign law.”

Why, "of course"? Truth to tell, I don't care if they look at foreign law as long as they rule according to our Constitution and our laws.

“This is much ado about nothing,” she said in response to a question by moderator Tim Russert of NBC. “Our Constitution is one that evolves. What’s the best way to know? State legislatures — but it doesn’t hurt to know what other countries are doing.”


I doubt that the Founding Fathers had other countries' laws in mind when they crafted the Constitution. I do agree that the Constitution evolves, but it should evolve because of US Legislation and not what another country is doing. We need to be very careful of looking to other countries. They are influenced by other countries and eventually there will be little difference between the US and, say, Germany, France, and Sweden. If I were a citizen of one of those countries, I wouldn't care. I'd be proud that the mighty US was looking to rule using my countries laws. But I'm not. I'm an American. Sure, our laws may need clarification or tweaking, or just plan razed and rebuilt (The Income Tax being one), but let's remember to keep it in context.

A woman I once knew had a saying, "Don't go on the porch unless you intend to go in the house." She was talking about temptation and sinning, but I think it's appropriate here. Don't go looking at laws in other countries unless you intend to be influenced by them. I personally don't care what the law is in another country, unless I happen to be going there or doing business with that country.

2 comments:

UberIcarus said...

Actually, since international treaties are the law of the land, and we've signed the declaration of human rights, amongst other things, international law is in fact a good place to look.

In fact, concerning civil rights its generally a good idea to look at other countries "Wow, we're one of about 4 countries out of 193 that executes children....hrrrmmm, maybe something's wrong here and our concept of justice is a bit fucked up."

Not a very big step in logic to make.

Deborah said...

International Treaties are NOT the law of the land, the Constitution is. Our laws are based on the Constitution, not international treaties or other documents.