Resolution Combats Use Of International Laws in U.S. Court Decisions

By Jimmy Moore
Talon News

April 16, 2004

WASHINGTON (Talon News) -- Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) has introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would combat the use of international laws by American courts by affirming that any judicial decisions should not be based on any foreign laws, court decisions, or pronouncements of foreign governments unless they are expressly approved by Congress.

"The Reaffirmation of American Independence Resolution," or H.RES. 568, was submitted last month and has 59 co-sponsors in the House.

The resolution expresses concern that U.S. Supreme Court justices have chosen to cite international laws in their rulings.

However, the congressmen who support this resolution say the justices swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution and should be impeached for giving precedence to international laws.

Over the past few years, six U.S. Supreme Court justices have pointed to foreign laws to justify their rulings in several cases. This trend has even begun to trickle down into the lower federal courts.

In 1999, Justice Breyer used judicial rulings from Jamaica, India, Zimbabwe, and the European Court of Human Rights to support his opinion in a death penalty case.

Justice Kennedy noted European court rulings in the controversial Lawrence v. Texas case in 2003 that legalized gay sex.

Feeney believes it is the responsibility of the people's representatives in Congress to instruct judges in the United States to make rulings based solely on the U.S. Constitution.

"The American people have not consented to being ruled by foreign powers or tribunals, and their elected representatives have an obligation to ensure that America's courts do not impose this rule upon them," Feeney remarked in a statement.

He added, "America's sovereignty and the integrity of our legal process should not be threatened by a jurisprudence predicated upon laws and judicial decisions alien to our Constitution and our system of self-government."

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that the Constitution and federal statutes comprise the supreme law of the land.

Every member of the U.S. Congress has to swear an oath to defend the Constitution and pass laws that respect its authority.

Likewise, federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, are bound by an oath to defend the Constitution and interpret the law accordingly.

"The Reaffirmation of American Independence Resolution" holds elected officials and judges accountable to this oath.

University of California-Berkeley law professor John Yoo recently wrote in a law review article about the dangers of using international legal decisions in American courts.

"If foreign decisions were to become, in close cases, outcome determinative, or even were to trigger some type of deference, then they would effectively transfer federal authority outside the control of national government," Yoo explained.

The resolution is currently being considered during hearings in the House subcommittee.



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