Medellin v. Texas: Presidential Power and International Tribunals

Co-Sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute

In March 2004, the United Nations' International Court of Justice at the Hague (ICJ), which settles legal disputes between UN member states, heard the Avena case, which involves more than fifty Mexican nationals who are now on death row in the United States. In this case, Mexico brought suit, alleging that American authorities had violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to inform the Mexican detainees of their rights to consular consultation.

In a February 2005 case involving one of the detainees, José E. Medellín, President George W. Bush issued an executive memorandum, ordering the Texas state courts to comply with the Avena judgment. Mr. Medelíin applied for a writ of habeas corpus (that is, relief from unlawful detention), and in November 2006, a unanimous ruling from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied the application. The Texas court ruled that the decisions of the ICJ are not binding on American courts and that the President's memorandum demanding that the states comply with the ICJ's ruling is beyond presidential authority as spelled out in the Constitution. Mr. Medellín has appealed the decision and the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case on October 10.

Our program features two panels. Our first panel discusses the domestic validity of decisions of international tribunals. The second panel looks at the issues raised by Medellín v. Texas, including the authority of the President to order states to follow decisions of international tribunals.

This panel will be published by the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy in late 2007/early 2008. 

Panel I American Law and the Decisions of International Tribunals

  • Professor Michael J. Matheson, The George Washington Universiy Law School
  • Professor John O. McGinnis, Northwestern University School of Law
  • Professor Peter B. Rutledge, Catholic University Columbus School of Law
  • Professor John C. Yoo, University of California, Berkeley School of Law, Moderator

Panel II Presidential Power and Federalism

  • Mr. R. Ted Cruz, Solicitor General, State of Texas
  • Professor Michael D. Ramsey, University of San Diego School of Law
  • Professor Edward T. Swaine, The George Washington University Law School
  • The Honorable Edwin D. Williamson, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, Moderator