What’s in a Name? Medellin and the Many Meanings of "Binding"

Slate's blog on legal issues.
March 26 2008 2:12 PM

What’s in a Name? Medellin and the Many Meanings of "Binding"

What’s in a Name?   Medellin and the Many Meanings of "Binding"

 

Advertisement

Is Medellin really a case about the role of courts in enforcing international law or is it instead a case about whether international law is binding and who can make it so?    And is there a difference between these two possibilities?

 

On first glance, all Roberts is saying is that the President can’t force state courts to abide by a an ICJ opinion regarding the Vienna Conventions when doing so would conflict with a state’s own state court procedures. He quite reasonably – it seems to me – concludes that Congress never authorized the president to exercise such power over states courts and in fact is probably best read to have impliedly prohibited him from doing so.   But there’s a lot of loose language suggesting the President can never make non-self executing treaties "binding," which suggests that the president couldn’t even bind federal officers to adhere to their terms.   Insofar as Roberts’s opinion rests on an implicit construction of congressional intent in this partiuclar case – and a judgment that Congress would not have wanted the president to exercise this power over state courts, it need not be read to go very far.   And even insofar as it holds that the ICJ decision does not itself give rise to a privately enforceable right, it’s not all that surprising a ruling. But the loose language regarding bindingness may not be accidental.   So, Medellin may not really be about the role of courts in enforcing international law at all; it may be instead about the extent which non-self executing provisions of international law – from the Torture Convention on down -- can’t be made binding in any respect on any federal officers. If that’s the real import of Roberts’s opinion, it’s big one and goes well beyond the issue of the role that courts can play in giving effect to international law.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?