Wednesday, 13 January 2016

A new law in Texas

My eye was caught by a story out of Texas earlier today.  A recently passed statute is reported to have guaranteed "that no laws from ‘foreign courts’ will be adopted by Texas civil court judges".

I've been a little concerned by attempts to exclude international and foreign law from domestic courts ever since I read the column now-Presidential candidate Ted Cruz penned for Human Events -
One doesn’t have to be a constitutional scholar to object to foreign laws and foreign courts — laws that are not enacted by our democratic government and judges who are not selected as our Constitution provides — ruling on Americans’ rights and the powers of American government.
While there is some superficial appeal to insisting on the sovereignty of domestic law, there are two strong arguments to the contrary.  One is practical.  Despite the warnings over a decade ago about the International Criminal Court, it seems to be making a worthwhile mark on the world's troublemakers.  Hazel Smith of the International Institute of Korean Studies has explained the recent North Korean nuclear test by saying that
The North Koreans are not led by diplomatic strategy anymore. They are led by a view that the military is what allows the regime to survive ... You have a group of [ruling] families who don't want to see their power go, who don't want to end up in [the International Criminal Court in] The Hague.

Image from here

More fundamentally, there's a philosophical objection which should have meaning to right-wingers like me: there is nothing conservative about blocking international law.  William Blackstone, described by one arch-conservative group as "foundational to American law" considered such law to be a system of rules deducible by natural reason, stemming from the principles of natural justice, and enjoying "universal consent among the civilised inhabitants of the world".  It's hard to imagine a better endorsement.

There are many reforms to the law that conservatives should support.  This isn't one of them.

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