Friday, December 10, 2004

More tea leaves on U.S. court recognition of international law

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has agreed to hear another Vienna international law death penalty case. The astonishing thing to me about this is why they've agreed to hear essentially the same case they heard in LeGrand and Breard. SCOTUS is not known for wanting to decide the same issues over and over again...or in some cases, AVOIDING the same issue over and over again.

I'm not an avid follower of the Court, but I think the grant of certiorari here is an indicator that the more liberal wing of the court is angling for more formalized recognition of international law in their decision making. If this is their motive, they almost can't lose. Either the Court says the that U.S. does NOT have to follow the rulings of the ICJ and international law (which would mean, among other things, a change in procedural rules) or it does. It is unlikely the court will render a holding that can avoids these and the implied customary international law issues. There would be no point in granting cert. In the context of the Court's recent use of international law citations, even a full discussion of the customary international law issues will be seen as a victory for its advocates, even if the ultimate outcome is not to their liking.

Expect a vicious Scalia dissent outlining his resistance to ANY use of international law citations as well. Should be good, clean law fun.

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