Home

Justice Breyer Defends References to Foreign Law
Download PDF
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Speaking at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University yesterday, Justice Breyer defended references to foreign law in Supreme Court decisions.  The sound bite being tossed around the blawgosphere today was when he said “I can read what I want”, but of course there was far more to his argument than that.  He went on to say “If I see something written by a man or a woman who has a job like mine in another country, and who is interpreting a document somewhat like mine and who in fact has a problem in front of the court somewhat like mine, why can’t I read it, see what they’ve done? I might learn something.”

There is no doubt that the courtrooms of Europe contain great thinkers who can offer us insights into the philosophical underpinnings of the law, even though the context differs.  Philosophy, whatever its source, helps understand meaning.  It gives us tools to interpret ideas and can help form a framework for discussion.  The Constitution itself was based on the philosophies of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau among others.  Justice Breyer made the point that foreign law is not controlling but that there is nothing wrong with learning what other legal scholars think about an issue.  It is right and proper that those who make momentous decisions that reverberate throughout our society reach for insight from as many sources as possible so long as the final decision is found within the framework of the Constitution.  But what Breyer didn’t address head on is the appropriateness of including those arguments in decisions issued by our own Court.

Is there a difference between quoting Plato, Socrates and Voltaire and citing a case from the European Court of Human Rights?  Justice Scalia certainly think so.  In his dissent in Lawrence v Texas, Scalia wrote “the court’s discussion of these foreign views …  is … meaningless dicta. Dangerous dicta, however, since this court should not impose foreign moods, fads, or fashions on Americans.”

  
What
Where




 

RELEVANT JOBS

Nurse Paralegal

USA-PA-Philadelphia

Plaintiff litigation law firm in Montco seeks Nurse with Labor & Delivery experience to conduct inta...

Apply now

Legal Extern

USA-VA-Alexandria

Legal Extern Openings - Class of 2021 and 2022 Company Name: Old Towne Associates, P.C. C...

Apply now

Associate Attorney

USA-LA-New Orleans

Small insurance defense firm New Orleans seeks full time associate, minimum 3 years litigation exper...

Apply now

Associate Attorney

USA-CA-El Segundo

Prestigious, small plaintiffs’ employment law / class action firm handling significant, high-l...

Apply now

BCG FEATURED JOB

Locations:

Keyword:



Search Now

Employment Attorney

USA-CA-Los Angeles

Los Angeles office of our client seeks employment attorney with 10 years of experience and 5+ years ...

Apply Now

Wealth Planning Associate Attorney

USA-CT-Hartford

Hartford office of a BCG Attorney Search Top Ranked Law Firm seeks wealth planning associate attorne...

Apply Now

Litigation Associate Attorney

USA-FL-Coral Gables

Coral Gables office of our client seeks associate attorney with 2-5 years of litigation experience. ...

Apply Now

Most Popular

SEARCH IN ARCHIVE

To Top