Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thirty Hogheads of Sugar

In the continuing debate about how U.S. courts should consider pronouncements of foreign and international tribunals, this quote from Chief Justice John Marshall might shed some favorable light.  In a case called Thirty Hogheads of Sugar v. Boyle, 13 U.S. (9 Cranch) 191, 198 (1815), Chief Justice Marshall declared:

"The law of nations . . . is in part unwritten, and in part conventional.  To ascertain that which is unwritten, we resort to the great principles of reason and justice . . . being, in some degree, fixed and rendered stable by a series of judicial decisions.  The decisions of the Courts of every country, will be received, not as authority, but with respect."

Hat tip to Jordan Paust, Jon M. Van Dyke, and Linda Malone.  The quote appears on page 56 of their new edition of International Law and Litigation in the United States.  Or click here to read the case on 


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