Sunday, April 11, 2010
On Friday, Justice John Paul Stevens, the longest serving justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, announced that he would be retiring at the end of this term. Although not the most outspoken on the issue, Justice Stevens has been one of the justices who is open to the use of international and foreign law at the Supreme Court. Scholars of international law are likely to miss him. Justice Stevens was an early advocate for consulting international and foreign norms in the context of determining what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361 (1989), and Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815 (1988). More recently, he continued his support for the use of international and foreign law in death penalty cases of Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), and Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 302 (2002). He also supported reference to international and foreign law in the context of determining the due process and equal protection rights of lesbian and gay persons in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).
For those interested in learning more about Justice Stevens' views on international and foreign law, you may wish to read Professor Diane Amman's article, John Paul Stevens, Human Rights Judge, 74 Fordham L. Rev. 1569 (2006), which can be found on SSRN here. Scholars of international law can only hope that President Obama will nominate a new justice who is knowledgeable about and receptive to the appropriate use of international law in Supreme Court decision-making.