March 25, 2008

The Supreme Court thwarts President Bush's expansive vision of executive power.

Texas wins a big victory against the Bush Administration in Medellin v. Texas:
By 6 to 3, the court ruled that the president went too far in 2005, when he decreed that the states had to abide by a 2004 decision by the World Court. That decision found that several dozen Mexican citizens who had been sentenced to death in the United States had not been given the assistance from Mexican diplomats that they were entitled to receive under an international treaty....

Mr. Medellin’s conviction and sentence were upheld in the Texas courts despite the 2004 finding by the World Court, and the Supreme Court concluded on Tuesday that President Bush had no authority to order the state courts to reverse themselves, no matter what the World Court said....

The Supreme Court ruling acknowledged that President Bush, in pressing Texas to take another look at the Medellin case, was acting on behalf of the “plainly compelling interests” of fostering observance of the Vienna Convention 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 language cited was from a 1952 ruling in which the high court found that President Harry S. Truman did not have the authority to have the federal government seize and run steel mills.
Here's Roberts's opinion.

UPDATE: Here's the Wall Street Journal article, which emphasizes the insulation of the state courts from the dictates of the international court — on treaties that the U.S. has signed:
Treaty obligations, in other words, do not necessarily take on the force of law domestically. Rather, Congress must enact legislation for whatever provisions -- such as consular notification -- that it wants to make the formal law of the land. This distinction matters because it establishes a fire wall between international and domestic law. It also protects the core American Constitutional principles of federalism and the separation of powers. As Justice Roberts points out, the courts must leave to the political branches "the primary role in deciding when and how international agreements will be enforced."
Of course, President Bush attempted to take the action necessary to make the treaty obligation enforceable in state courts, and this is the exercise of power that the Court rejected.


Salamandyr said...

Wow, is this going to cause intellectual whiplash for the BDS set. On the one hand, the Court handed the President a smackdown on the extent of his executive power. Anything that hurts the President is by definition good right?

But on the other hand, they did it by saying that a state didn't have to abide by some extraterritorial court and in addition, Texas gets to kill somebody!

This is going to cause some heads to explode.

Sloanasaurus said...

Excellent analysis Salamandyr.

Clearly this decision is a blow to liberals everywhere. Just Imagine - a world court full of liberals and progressives that could overrule our pesky U.S. courts and bring to justice all white men and conservatives who perpetuate division in the world.

Yet Bush was supporting the world court? What gives?

Everything is collapsing. First Obama, now the world court. How horrible.

Richard Fagin said...

The Chief Justice's poke in the eye of the living constitution crowd is priceless:

"The dissent faults our analysis because it 'looks for the wrong thing (explicit textual expression about self-execution) using the wrong standard (clarity) in the wrong place (the treaty language).'"

Yes, looking for explicit textual expression in clear language in the actual legal device under review is so, so, reactionary!!

Middle Class Guy said...

According to the article, Bush was against the lawsuit and World Court intervention. He changed his mind when the WC ruled in favor of the plaintiff(s).

The question is what or who changed his mind?

Anthony said...

Actually, the case should have been handled in the Texas Courts. They should have had a hearing to determine if the Vienna Convention violation caused prejudice.

It probably would not have made a difference.

MadisonMan said...

Shorter SC decision: You're not King.

Simon said...

I'm going to have to read this one again more closely this evening. I read the briefs when it was argued and it made my head spin - normally you get a sense of who's right, even if it later changes, but this is the most complex case I've ever tried to follow. At first read, it seems as though the Chief has it as right as it's going to get.

John Burgess said...

Looks like a win for Bush to me.

As both former governor and current resident of TX, he's not really eager to go up against TX courts.

As President, he has to be presidential, including doing that 'internationalist' thing certain political sectors think he should be doing more of.

So, he plays the good guy in telling US courts that they must heed international treaties. Kudos from the internationalists! He really cares!

But those nasty courts (everybody's punching bag) say he can't do it, that it violates the Constitution.

Bush shrugs, says, "I did the best I could,' and keeps the brownie points. And the Mexicans still face the music, arguably what he wanted in the first place.

Mortimer Brezny said...

At first read, it seems as though the Chief has it as right as it's going to get.

All he did was crib from Curtis Bradley.

tomb1 said...

The headline is sarcasm, right? You're under the influence of the local paper (NYT), right? The only thing thwarted was the desire of world leaders (through the ICJ) to force their opinion on us.

Bush was on the side of Texas, and against the world court. But once the case got to a certain point, Bush as national executive had to write a memorandum telling Texas to reconsider the sentences. Texas refused, as everyone hoped they would. Now our Supreme Court said that the (child-murdering) defendant's lawyers cannot force Texas to enforce the world court's judgement under the treaty.

Anyway, this is all a sham about the morality of the death penalty. That's the bottom line.

Fen said...

/from the Roberts's opinion

"We granted certiorari to decide two questions.

First, is the ICJ’s judgment in Avena directly enforceable as domestic law in a state court in the United States?

Second, does the President’s Memorandum independently require the States to provide review and reconsideration of the claims of the 51 Mexican nationals named in Avena without regard to state procedural default rules?"

Bob said...

And the Texas response will be "Extra Crispy?".

The absolute horror of the explosion in the carbon footprint this execution is gonna cause.

As Salamandyr notes, this decision is gonna be hard to spin on the left.

Jeremy said...

Bob, depending on the resources used by the defendent, it might actually lower his lifetime carbon footprint.

Chip Ahoy said...

Wow. Just wow. I read that whole thing, felt things go "pop" inside my head and now I must take a nap.

But I'll be having sweet dreams abut ICJ inability to wedge itself above our constitution. I know they've got a bug up their butts about our death penalty. And I got the sense Bush wasn't all that serious, "Hey look, I tried, all-i'ate?" Roberts repeats himself; self executing, non self-executing explained twice. *looks up dispositive* Oi. In my puny world, that whole thing sounded like the international version of playing parents off each other.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

"WORLD Court"?!?

Texas is bigger than France... and the Hague!

Middle Class Guy said...

As Salamandyr notes, this decision is gonna be hard to spin on the left.

The left is so wound up they are spinning out of control already.

Elliott A said...

The only positive about the Bush presidency are those justices. Thand Heavens!

Cedarford said...

The NY Times mischaracterizes it. It was not a blow against executive power, it was a blow against Jewish and Euro transnationalism and the dilution of US and US justice sovereignity to Soros, the Davos crowd, and Kettheth Roth and his various "internationalist" human rights NGOs pretense that they transcend nations.

Only obliquely was it a big slap against the idiot President and his perpetual giver of bad advice that likely pushed this - Condi Rice.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that neither the defendant nor his supporters “have identified a single nation that treats I.C.J. judgments as binding in domestic courts.” (The World Court is formally known as the International Court of Justice.)

And look at who was in the minority pushing transnationalism and the moral clarity of the Voice of the World.....the usual two suspects, Ginsburg and Breyer...joined by their lackey Souter.

What is refreshing is that Anthony Kennedy, who has been snookered by Breyer and Ginsburg before on "global standards", "refer to the excellent decision in Zimbabwe that should guide us" has peeled off from Ginsburg and Breyer's effort to subordinate the US to international bodies without the People of America voting on it.

Couple that with the ditsy, semi-senile Sandra Day O'Connor falling out of Ginsburgs influence by a welcome retirement - and we appear to have a Court that is backtracking from forcing America towards "The All-Wise Guidance of the UN, Sir Richard Goldstone, the World Court, and the New Sanhedrin of Human Rights NGO lawyers".

Look at who

Ignorance is Bliss said...

All he did was crib from Curtis Bradley.

99% of success in life is picking the right person to crib from.

caplight777 said...

On Lou Dobbs the dissonance of the left was delicious. Bush seemed to be in favor of internationalism and yet he was still Bush. So here is how they resolved the psychic dilemma: Once again this President disregards the US Constitution. It was priceless--shameless--but priceless.

Seven Machos said...

What I want to know is how Jews pull off Jewish transnationalism while simultaneously maintaining a little country in the Middle East that is always in the same place since 1948.

That's an interesting feat. I applaud the Jews.

From Inwood said...

Haven't read the dissents yet & have read but not studied the opinion.

Actually salamandyr & sloanasaurus seem to have summed it up for us in a few sentences!

And Cedarford makes a good point & then as usual spoils it by playing "Blame The Jews", tho I didn't know that Condi Rice was Jewish.

The point being that the NYT, unfairly & unbalanced as per usual, crowed that SCOTUS had rebuked the President regarding the limits of executive power. Newsflash to the Gray lady: more important was the fact that it was really about whether a U.S. State has to abide by some furrin’ court’s or UN Charter fiat, which the MSM refers to as "International Law".

Funny, I see that in the unnuanced & superficial news coverage of the case, like the gargle of an obsessed gaggle of geese, the phrases "Texas Justice", "death penalty," "Mexican", "immigrant", "World Court", & UN Charter" recur. Like Cedarford's Joos.

Where ignorant minds clash by night....

From Inwood said...

Seven Machos

You know the old Jewish joke about the Jewish-American WW II spy who insults Hitler just before he's about to be executed by a firing squad. The one where his buddy tells him to "stop making trouble".

This is why Israel keeps its small size, I guess. Doesn't want to make trouble.

hdhouse said...


Someone used "President Bush" and "vision" in the same sentence. OMG

When worlds collide.

A Running Commentary said...

I think of my 2 votes for Bush as one for Roberts and one for I wrote yesterday, that is about all Libertarians can take away from this 8 years.

Simon said...

Congress considers enabling legislation per Medellin.