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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Justices Back Texas Law |In Death-Penalty Case

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Supreme Court ruled that U.S. courts are not bound by international judgments or direct orders from the president in a 6-3 decision denying a new hearing to a Mexican on death row.

The ruling allows Texas courts to trump a finding by the International Court of Justice that the United States violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to inform 51 Mexicans of their right to have an embassy or consulate notified immediately after their arrests.

In a decision issued after the ICJ judgment, the Supreme Court held that the Vienna Convention does not pre-empt state restrictions on filing successive habeas petitions.

President Bush then issued a memo ordering Texas to comply with the ICJ decision.

But Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said international treaties do not allow international judgments to automatically become domestic law unless Congress passes legislation implementing the change.

Justices Breyer, Souter and Ginsburg argued in dissent that treaties sometimes have the effect of domestic law, an interpretation that Roberts said was "tantamount to vesting with the judiciary the power not only to interpret but also to create the law."

The majority added that the "responsibility for transforming an international obligation arising from a non-self-executing treaty into domestic law falls to Congress."

Breyer said international treaties bind U.S. courts no less than an act of Congress.

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