This is very good news. Congrats to the state of Texas, which had to fight the open-borders lobby and the Bush administration all the way to the high court to prevent international law from superseding American sovereignty:
President Bush overstepped his authority when he ordered a Texas court to grant a new hearing to a Mexican on death row for rape and murder, the Supreme Court said Tuesday.
In a case that mixes presidential power, international relations and the death penalty, the court sided with Texas 6-3.
Bush was in the unusual position of siding with death row prisoner Jose Ernesto Medellin, a Mexican citizen whom police prevented from consulting with Mexican diplomats, as provided by international treaty.
An international court ruled in 2004 that the convictions of Medellin and 50 other Mexicans on death row around the United States violated the 1963 Vienna Convention, which provides that people arrested abroad should have access to their home country’s consular officials. The International Court of Justice, also known as the world court, said the Mexican prisoners should have new court hearings to determine whether the violation affected their cases.
Bush, who oversaw 152 executions as Texas governor, disagreed with the decision. But he said it must be carried out by state courts because the United States had agreed to abide by the world court’s rulings in such cases. The administration argued that the president’s declaration is reason enough for Texas to grant Medellin a new hearing.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, disagreed. Roberts said the international court decision cannot be forced upon the states.
The president may not “establish binding rules of decision that pre-empt contrary state law,” Roberts said.
Andy McCarthy summed up the bottom line on this case last fall:
At bottom, the case is about the freedom of Texans to govern themselves, to put sadistic murderers to death if that is what they choose democratically to do, as long as they adhere to American constitutional procedures in carrying out that policy choice. Sure, it offends Mexicans, Europeans, international law professors, and a motley collection of jurists who see themselves as a supra-sovereign tribunal. But that is not a basis for the President to interfere.
The administration has made a great show of promoting democracy. Democracy, however, begins at home.
Don’t you forget it.
SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Deniston has more:
The Supreme Court, in a sweeping rejection of claims of power in the presidency, ruled 6-3 on Tuesday that the President does not have the authority to order states to relax their criminal procedures to obey a ruling of the World Court. The decision came in the case of Medellin v. Texas (06-984). Neither a World Court decision requiring U.S. states to provide new review of criminal cases involving foreign nationals, nor a memo by President Bush seeking to enforce the World Court ruling, preempts state law restrictions on challenges to convictions, the Court said in a ruling written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.
The decision, aside from its rebuff of presidential power, also treats the World Court ruling itself as not binding on U.S. states, when it contradicts those states’ criminal procedure rules. The international treaty at issue in this dispute — the Vienna Convention that gives foreign nationals accused of crime a right to meet with diplomats from their home country — is not enforceable as a matter of U.S. law, the Roberts opinion said. And the World Court ruling seeking to implement that treaty inside the U.S. is also not binding, and does not gain added legal effect merely because the President sought to tell the states to abide by the decision, the Court added.
The ruling also is a defeat for 51 Mexican nationals who won a World Court decision in 2004, finding that U.S. states had denied them their consular access rights and advising the U.S. government to take steps to enforce the ruling. In the specific case, Mexican national Jose Ernesto Medellin, sought to rely on both the World Court decision and the Bush memo to reopen his case, claiming that he was never given access to any Mexican diplomat while his case was going through Texas state courts.
The Bush Administration did not agree with the World Court ruling, and, in fact, withdrew from the international protocol that gave the World Court the authority to enforce the Vienna Convention. Even so, Bush issued a memo in February 2005, agreeing that the U.S. would seek to obey the World Court, and he told the states involve to “give effect” to that tribunal’s decision. The case thus came to the Court as a major test of presidential authority, in seeking to enforce treaty obligations, to override contradictory state criminal procedure rules. In that test, the presidency clearly lost.