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Supreme Court: "Do you have a treaty with Texas?"

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    Supreme Court: "Do you have a treaty with Texas?"

    I wanted to call this "Do you have treaties with all 50 states?," but that didn't fit.

    So, the Supreme Court ruling on international treaties' authority over states, then. Puts me in the uncomfortable position of wishing that Bush had won in this one.

    Here's NPR's Nina Totenberg to explain:

    The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a major opinion on Tuesday that limits the force of many U.S. treaties and rejects President Bush's assertion that he can unilaterally order state governments to comply with treaties.

    As the U.S. Constitution reads, "All Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby..." So when the Senate ratifies a treaty with a two-thirds vote, does that mean the treaty provisions are binding on the states?

    The Supreme Court ruled that they are binding only if the treaty explicitly says so or if there is legislation to make that clear. For all of American history, many treaties have been deemed to be what is called "self-executing," meaning that their provisions are automatically binding. But not all treaties fall into this category. The Supreme Court's ruling set a bright line for which treaties are self-executing namely, those that explicitly say so or have accompanying legislation that says so.

    The court said the president, acting on his own, cannot make a treaty binding on the states.

    The ruling came in a death penalty case involving a treaty enacted in 1969 that guaranteed foreign nationals access to diplomats from their home countries if they are accused of crimes. Although the provision was inserted at the insistence of the United States to protect its citizens abroad, state and local governments in the U.S. were slow to honor it. In 2004, the Mexican government went to the International Court of Justice on behalf of 51 of its citizens on death row in the United States who had not been told of their right to consular access, and thus, did not have the benefit of the Mexican government's help at the time of their trials.

    The international court ruled that the United States had violated its treaty obligations and ordered the U.S. to in some form reconsider the death sentences. Bush then withdrew from the part of the treaty subjecting the United States to the international court's jurisdiction.

    But for those 51 individuals, he ordered the state courts to comply. His home state of Texas refused, asserting that the president's unilateral assertion of power was unconstitutional. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed by a 6-3 majority.

    Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts said that because the treaty did not explicitly say its provisions were binding, and because there was no legislation to make the treaty binding, the president could not on his own force the states to comply.

    "There is no reason to believe that the president and the Senate signed up for such a result," he said.

    The dissenting justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter, said some 70 existing treaties are in jeopardy because of Tuesday's ruling.
    I'd be interested to read what ursus has to say about this.

    #2
    Supreme Court: "Do you have a treaty with Texas?"

    Maybe I'm mising something but this doesn;t seem so bad. Doesn't that just say that Congress, when ratifiying a treaty, has to also ratify legislation to put it into effect?

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      #3
      Supreme Court: "Do you have a treaty with Texas?"

      I haven't read enough to really have a view, but share Inca's discomfort on a general level. The politics of treaty ratification in the US tends to be poisonous, and needing to pass the necessary legislation in that environment will add another hurdle to a process in which "we" already lag behind most countries.

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        #4
        Supreme Court: "Do you have a treaty with Texas?"

        It's weird to see the righties' touted Federalist principles win out over their penchant for executive power for once, but it's a really odd ruling.
        "The notion that the president can himself unilaterally determine that it shall be a binding domestic law, even to the point of preempting state laws dealing with criminal procedure, is a breathtaking proposition, and that's what the court rejected," he said.
        Except he's not unilaterally deciding that. It's what the fucking constitution says.

        Comment


          #5
          Supreme Court: "Do you have a treaty with Texas?"

          Scotus Blog has contrasting opinions on the verdict, and detail on some of the precedents invoked. The problem seems to be more in the Court's previous interpretations of what seems to me a perfectly plain requirement of the constitution, rather than this one per se. If the precedent holds, then this decision makes sense. That said, the precedent makes no sense.

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