Thursday, September 09, 2004

International Influences

Much has been written on the fact that some Supreme Court Justices want United States courts to take a closer look at international developments. For example, Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes this view:
"Our island or lone ranger mentality is beginning to change," Ginsburg said during a speech to the American Constitution Society, a liberal lawyers group holding its first convention.

Justices "are becoming more open to comparative and international law perspectives," said Ginsburg, who has supported a more global view of judicial decision making.

Ginsburg cited an international treaty in her vote in June to uphold the use of race in college admissions.
Ginsburg has actually been in favor of this sort of thing for at least 16 years, according to a passage that I recently read in Jagdish Bhagwati's book In Defense of Globalization:
[I]n an interesting development that has gone unnoticed by the media in the rich countries, judicial activism has begun to translate these norms and conventions into effective domestic law. This new trend can be traced to what legal activists call the Bangalore Principles. In 1988, a colloquium was organized by the Commonweal Secretariat on the Domestic Application of International Human Rights Norms under the chairmanship of the chief justice of India (P.N. Bhagwati), with the participants including Ruth Bader Ginsburg (now on the U.S. Supreme Court) . . . . In their communique, they expounded principles that have had a huge impact on judicial thinking worldwide. They cited and approved the "growing tendency for national courts to have regard to [evolving] international norms for the purpose of deciding cases where the domestic law -- whether constitutional, statute or common law -- is uncertain or incomplete."
You can find the Bangalore Principles here.

Bhagwati follows this paragraph with an unsurprising anecdote relating to Justice Scalia:
Conservative judges will indeed regard this development with alarm. In fact, when I once met Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court, arguably the most effective conservative voice on the Court today, at Vice President Al Gore's dinner for the Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, I was carrying my name on the lapel of my jacket. Justice Scalia took one look at my name and asked, "Do you know Justice Bhagwati?" I said, "Yes, he happens to be my brother," at which point he exclaimed, "Good grief, he is to the left of Brennan," a strong liberal voice on the U.S. Supreme Court!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

And to think, that when Ruth Ginsburg was proposed for the Supreme Court, the respectable press was unanimous that she was a moderate and uncontroversial choice. Of course, to their way of thinking, she was.

11:19 AM  
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