House Members Object to Supreme Court Use of Foreign Precedent

Rep. Tom Feeney is back -- this time with an effort to draw adverse attention to the Supreme Court's use of foreign cases in their decisions .

Stick to U.S. law or risk impeachment, Rep. Tom Feeney is warning the Supreme Court. The Florida Republican and fellow House Judiciary Committee member Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., plan next week to propose a resolution that judicial decisions should not be based on foreign precedents. The lawmakers say they have 50 co-sponsors for the resolution, which will be non-binding, though Feeney warned that justices who flout it risk "the ultimate remedy ... impeachment" ...

Lawrence Goldman, past President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), has this reaction (received by email):

The latest Feeney bill, as amended today, would suggest that the U.S. Supreme Court not consider any legal rulings, statutes, declarations, edicts and regulations of any foreign nation, the United Nations or any international body, or any United States state or commonwealth court in which there is a Democratic majority or of which more than 3 members are judges or graduates of accredited law schools. Exceptions are made for the laws, etc. of South Africa during the apartheid area, Pinochet Chile, the Shah's Iran, Somoza Nicaragua or any other nation that is certified by the Department of Justice not to allow judges any sentencing discretion.

A Texas death penalty lawyer had this response:

This issue is of vital importance because the International Court of Justice in The Hague will soon rule in Mexico v. United States, a lawsuit over the U.S.'s repeated violation of the Vienna Convention in the cases of 52 Mexican nationals on death row. If the ICJ finds that the U.S. has violated the treaty, then we are going to see capital defense lawyers seeking relief in the U.S. for their Mexican clients on this issue. Feeney clearly sees this coming and wants to throw a wrench in the process....I would note that Congress doesn't seem to have any problems when our courts cite foreign legal precedent to decide cases involving commercial treaties, such as the Geneva Convention, NAFTA, etc

One of our law prof friends responded thusly:

I thought this a joke at first. Is he saying we should discard all use of English Common Law in opinions, not to mention the government's use of foreign countries' laws in cases like Trapilo, Pasquintino, and all the Lacey Act cases premised on foreign law?

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