Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Medellin v. Texas

Medellin v. Texas

Lyle Denniston has the latest at SCOTUS Blog with, "New claim of presidential power." Here's an excerpt:

The Bush Administration, continuing its sturdy defense of presidential powers, has urged the Supreme Court to rule that President Bush had the authority to direct state courts to obey a decision of the World Court.

In an amicus filing in the case of Medellin v. Texas (06-984), the government called for reversal of a Texas state court ruling that Bush did not have the power to ensure that state courts complied with the international tribunal's decision on the rights of foreign nationals arrested and prosecuted within the U.S. for crimes here.

The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations gives such individuals a right to meet with a diplomatic officer from his or her home country. The World Court (the International Court of Justice at the Hague) ruled that the U.S. government must take steps to assure that 51 Mexican nationals prosecuted in the U.S. had that right, despite state court rules that barred them from relying upon the Convention in challenging their convictions.

The government's brief was filed last Thursday but has not yet been made available in printed form. A galley proof form became available Tuesday. The government supports the appeal of Jose Ernesto Medellin, a Mexican national who was denied his consular access rights, and the Texas court found he had failed to raise that issue properly as his case unfolded in state court. Medellin's appeal to the Justices was filed on January 16. As of Tuesday morning, any response by the state was not yet available.

Medellin's appeal is also supported by the Mexican government and by a group of law professors who are experts on World Court matters. In the lower court ruling at issue, the Fifth Circuit Court decided that Medellin had defaulted in failing to raise the Convention issue at his trial and on appeal, and also decided that the Convention does not give an individual the right to seek its enforcement.

The case has not yet been scheduled for a Conference of the Justices.

While the government brief stressed that President Bush did not agree with the World Court's ruling (and has since withdrawn from the protocol that gave the World Court authority to apply the Vienna Convention), it argued that the Texas ruling will undermine the President's authority to determine "how the United States will comply with its treaty obligations."

The Medellin case had been before the Supreme Court in 2005, when the Justices agreed to review and heard argument on the enforceability of the World Court decision. But, after argument, the Court dismissed the case as "improvidently granted," because Medellin had then recently filed a state court challenge to his conviction based on a violation of the Convention. That case went forward in Texas courts, resulting in the ruling at issue in his new appeal.

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