Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Conference: International Law in the Supreme Court: Continuity or Change?

The Santa Clara University Law School will host a conference on "International Law in the Supreme Court: Continuity or Change?," November 6-7, 2009. Here's the idea:

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the Supreme Court has decided a series of high-profile cases related to international law. In Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain (2004), the Court considered the federal judiciary's role in applying customary international law under the Alien Tort Statute. In Lawrence v. Texas (2003) and Roper v. Simmons (2005), the Court used international law as a tool for helping to resolve difficult constitutional issues arising under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), the Court grappled with questions involving the proper interpretation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. In Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon (2006) and Medellin v. Texas (2008), the Court confronted questions involving the U.N. Charter, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the domestic effects of judgments of the International Court of Justice.

Each of these decisions produced fairly strident dissents. In almost every case, the dissent accused the majority of departing significantly from established precedents. During this conference, scholars will evaluate recent Supreme Court decisions involving international law against the backdrop of eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth-century precedents and historical developments. The main questions to be addressed are: In what respects do the twenty-first century decisions represent a break from the past? In what respects are those decisions consistent with earlier practice and precedents? From a historical perspective, how can we account for both the continuity and the discontinuity?

The first day of the conference will focus on the history of international law in the Supreme Court from 1789 to 2000. The second day will focus on key Supreme Court cases decided in the past decade, evaluating those cases against the backdrop of the historical analysis developed on day one. Revised versions of the conference papers will be collected in a book published by Cambridge University Press.