Friday, March 28, 2008

Smackdown... Again

B-Daddy here. In an opinion that received only moderate coverage, the Supreme Court has delivered another well deserved smackdown to the Bush administration, this time on an issue of international law. The case itself is fairly straightforward, Jose Ernesto Medellín was sentenced to death in October 1994 after providing a written confession to the rape and murder of two teenage girls in June 1993 as part of a gang initiation. After exhausting most of his appeals, his lawyers brought up the fact that since he was a Mexican national, the Mexican consulate should have been notified, as provided for by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled against the United States in its Avena decision, stating in part:

“(a) The United States of America shall take all measures necessary to ensure that Mr. César Roberto Fierro Reyna, Mr. Roberto Moreno Ramos and Mr. Osvaldo Torres Aguilera are not executed pending final judgment in these proceedings;
(b) The Government of the United States of America shall inform the Court of all measures taken in implementation of this Order.'
Subsequently, the administration withdrew from that particular protocol of the treaty. But that didn't stop the administration from directing the state of Texas to retry the Medellín case. The Supremes said not so fast, under what legal basis do you the executive branch presume to direct the operations of the state criminal justice system. Further, what constitutional right or federal statutory right was Medellín denied that he should even appear as a petitioner before the Supreme Court? The key issue is that even though the United States may sign a treaty, if specific provisions for its enforcement are not codified into law, then courts are enjoined from inventing judicial remedy. We should be very happy about that outcome, because many international treaties tend to infringe on state sovereignty and individual rights. Preventing the courts from inventing remedies prevents future mischief. What if the Senate ratifies the Cybercrime Treaty and it is interpreted by the ICJ that rules that pointing out the Koran directs its followers to make war on infidels is a hate crime. If U.S. courts could then invent remedies, we might as well take a magic marker to the first amendment of the constitution.

BTW, I oppose the death penalty, but am unwilling to subvert our constitutional form of government just to reduce the number of executions.

This legal matter also exposes the President's flagrant disregard for the rule of law, again, by directing state courts to give regard to a treaty from which the administration itself had withdrawn. I happen to agree with DailyKos that this kind of behavior is the most troubling aspect of the Bush presidency. Think about the precedents Bush has tried to set in the hands of Hillary Clinton. Some more bullet points:
  • Bush is no conservative, not respecting the rule of law.
  • Bush is no federalist, not respecting state judicial processes.
However, of all the candidates currently still in the race, I think that Clinton has shown herself to be the most capable of continuing these shenanigans.

H/T: National Review

1 comment:

Dean said...

B-D, You have been consistent in your criticism of Bush wrt to this aspect of his governing. An aspect I have been willing to give him a pass on because of the expedience needed to fight the War on Terror and a belief in the fundamental decency of the man which would not lead to abuses of his extra-legal actions.

However, I have turned the corner on this in large part because of your argument: we will not always have a "fundamentally decent" person in the Oval Office. I will refrain from mentioning anyone specific (because you already did) but this flauting of the RoL has bumped up my McCain-o-meter to 55-45 for.