Supreme Court: States not bound by world court
DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE PRESS SERVICES
Posted on Wednesday, March 26, 2008
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that Texas and other states don’t have to grant new hearings to dozens of Mexicans who weren’t told they could seek consular assistance upon arrest and are now on death row for murder. The justices, voting 6-3, refused to enforce a 2004 decision by the International Court of Justice, which said 51 Mexican nationals had been deprived of their rights and were entitled to a new hearing. Texas said that under its criminal procedures the men weren’t entitled to have their cases reconsidered. “Not all international obligations automatically constitute binding federal law enforceable in United States courts,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. The case tested the respective roles of the three American branches of government and the level of deference the U. S. should give to international tribunals. The fight found President Bush’s administration in an unusual position, arguing against his home state and in favor of expanded procedural rights for a group of convicted murderers.
The Supreme Court ruling acknowledged that Bush, in pressing Texas to take another look at the case, was acting on behalf of the “plainly compelling interests” of fostering observance of the Vienna Conventions and trying to maintain good relations with other countries. However, the ruling added, “The president’s authority to act, as with the exercise of any governmental power, ‘must stem either from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself. ’” The administration argued unsuccessfully that the Supreme Court should defer to the president’s conclusion, laid out in a memo to his attorney general, that Texas courts should give a new hearing to Jose Ernesto Medellin and other Mexican nationals. Texas officials contended that under state law, Medellin waived his right to argue about consular notification because he didn’t raise the issue until his conviction and death sentence had been upheld on appeal. Texas said Bush was encroaching on the rights of states to enforce their own criminal-procedure rules. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito joined Roberts’ opinion. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote separately to say he agreed with the outcome, though not all of Roberts’ reasoning. Roberts rejected contentions that three treaties signed by the U. S. obligated the country’s state courts to comply with the World Court’s judgment. He said that “none of these treaty sources creates binding federal law in the absence of implementing legislation.” Roberts added that the president can’t “unilaterally” turn a treaty into binding domestic law.
“The responsibility for transforming an international obligation arising from a non-self-executing treaty into domestic law falls to Congress,” he wrote. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented. Breyer said the ruling means “the nation may well break its word even though the president seeks to live up to that word and Congress has done nothing to suggest the contrary.” Stevens in his concurring opinion suggested that Texas should now grant hearings to the inmates. Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, who argued the case for the state, said the ruling “categorically prohibits foreign courts from undermining American sovereignty and independence.” White House spokesman Dana Perino said, “We’re disappointed with the decision, but we’re going to accept it.” Donald Donovan, the lawyer who represented Medellin at the Supreme Court, said Congress and the president now should enact legislation to make the World Court decision binding on state courts. “Having given its word, the United States should keep its word,” Donovan said. Medellin was convicted in a Texas state court of taking part in the 1993 gang rape and murder of two teenage girls in Houston. His lawyers argued that he wasn’t aware of his consular rights during his trial and that Mexican authorities didn’t learn of his detention until he wrote to them after his conviction was upheld in 1997.
One Mexican national among the 51 in the international court case had been on Arkansas’ death row but was taken off in 2004 after his sentence was changed to life without parole. Rafael Camargo had originally been sentenced to death in the October 1994 shotgun deaths of his former girlfriend, Deanna Petree, and her 15-month-old son, Jonathan Macias. Camargo, 42, is an inmate at the Varner Unit. The case decided Tuesday is Medellin v. Texas, 06-984. In other business, the Supreme Court refused to expand the role of the judiciary in reviewing arbitration awards under federal law. The 6-3 decision came in an environmental cleanup dispute, one of the hundreds of thousands of disagreements companies and individuals choose to submit to arbitrators each year. Writing for the majority, Souter said the law’s essential virtue is in “resolving disputes straightaway.” The Supreme Court, Souter wrote, has “no business” expanding judicial review beyond what the law allows. In dissent, Stevens said the majority’s decision “conflicts with the primary purpose” of the Federal Arbitration Act because it “forbids enforcement of perfectly reasonable judicial review provisions.” The case is Hall Street v. Mattel, 06-989.
Information for this article was contributed by Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News; David Stout of The New York Times; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette staff; and Pete Yost of The Associated Press.
This is a very good ruling for jailing neglected Mexican citizens who commit crimes and stopping further demand by the socialist Int. Court of Justice that we give even more “rights” to illegals. However, there is still the fact that the negligence of the Mexican and American government is causing the deaths of more US citizens than the war of terror. All for the profit of a few corrupt companies like Tyson Foods and Cargill. It is disappointing to see the Bush administration putting the interest of the Mexican Narco-Regime ahead of immigration reform and 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Next time Gov. Beebe or some other politician claims that we don’t have the resources to enforce immigration laws, ask them if looking for a woodpecker or building a walkbridge was as important as Deanna Petree or Johnathan Macias.