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Supreme Court considers Bush authority to direct Texas court on ICJ compliance

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Wednesday in Medellin v. Texas [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-984, where the court considered whether the Bush administration has the authority to direct a state court to comply with a ruling from the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Jose Ernesto Medellin [ASIL backgrounder], a Mexican national sentenced to death in Texas for raping and murdering two teenage girls, appealed a November 2006 ruling [text; JURIST report] from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that President Bush "exceeded his constitutional authority" by ordering state court rehearings [JURIST report] for 51 Mexican nationals convicted in US courts. The president's February 2005 memorandum [text] instructed the Texas courts to follow a March 2004 ICJ decision [materials] that held that Medellin and the other Mexican nationals tried in US courts had been denied their Vienna Convention on Consular Relations [PDF text] right to contact the Mexican consulate for legal assistance and that the US was obligated to grant review and reconsideration of their convictions and sentences. During Wednesday's arguments, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that US courts should abide by the ICJ decision, as the US had "voluntarily complied" with the Vienna Convention. Justice Antonin Scalia questioned whether and on what basis the ICJ has decisional power over US courts.

Medellin's habeas corpus petition argued that the US had breached his right to contact the Mexican consulate under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention. Last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that Article 36 does not create judicially enforceable rights for individual foreigners detained in the US; an appeal of that decision is expected to be filed with the Supreme Court. AP has more.

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