International Law Gets Thumbs Up From Scalia

Your blogger doesn’t want to write about Justice Antonin Scalia every day but, after yesterday’s brouhaha over vocabulary, today he gave a shout-out to international law. It’s a little surprising coming from him, bearing in mind how outraged conservatives get at any reference to foreign law in a Supreme Court opinions. The case argued today is a little different than, say, the death penalty, because it actually involves an international treaty. As such, it’s not surprising that the court would look to how other countries’ courts have interpreted the treaty (in this case, the Hague Convention On International Child Abduction).

The case, Abbott v. Abbott, which your blogger previewed in the Daily Journal Monday (available via How Appealing), hinges on how U.S. courts should interpret the convention when it comes to deciding whether to return a child taken by one parent to another country against the wishes of the other parent.

Perhaps the most interesting quote from Scalia is when he pointed out to one of the lawyers that nearly all the courts in other countries that have interpreted the issue have come out the same way.

“I think we — if it’s a case of some ambiguity, we should try to go along with what seems to be the consensus in other countries that are signatories to the treaty,” he said. In weighing the value of foreign court rulings, he also noted that courts tackling the legal question included  “some biggies” such as the U.K. House of Lords (now the U.K. Supreme Court). The U.K. justices, who hosted Scalia for the opening of their new court in October, will no doubt be pleased to hear that they are considered to be one of the biggies.

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Lawrence Hurley

Reporter based in Washington

3 thoughts on “International Law Gets Thumbs Up From Scalia”

    1. I was referring more to conservative activists in general, not conservative legal scholars like yourself. It was also a little unusual for Scalia to adopt such a conciliatory tone during an oral argument.

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