US legal influence on the decline

There’s an interesting article in the International Herald Tribune about the U.S. Supreme Court’s dwindling influence on decisions in other countries.

These days, foreign courts in developed democracies often cite the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in cases concerning equality, liberty and prohibitions against cruel treatment, said Harold Hongju Koh, the dean of the Yale Law School. In those areas, Dean Koh said, “they tend not to look to the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The rest of the developed world is becoming more liberal while the United States continues its devolution toward greater conservatism. And now, it’s harder to win an argument by citing U.S. thinking.

Another reason is the diminished reputation of the United States in some parts of the world, which experts here and abroad said is in part a consequence of the Bush administration’s unpopularity abroad. Foreign courts are less apt to justify their decisions with citations to cases from a nation unpopular with their domestic audience.

It’s a shame. The U.S. may not have invented human rights, but we perfected it. We changed the rules and the rest of the world followed suit. It’s probably the single greatest contribution this country has made to the world.

So… who has the influence now?

Many legal scholars singled out the Canadian Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court of South Africa as increasingly influential.

“In part, their influence may spring from the simple fact they are not American,” Dean Slaughter wrote in a 2005 essay, “which renders their reasoning more politically palatable to domestic audience in an era of extraordinary U.S. military, political, economic and cultural power and accompanying resentments.”

It’s easy to forget that in the U.S., the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, are the soul of the nation. The president doesn’t make decisions about my rights, the courts do. During the Bush/Gore election, I heard a lot of people talking about how they were more “comfortable” with Bush, while Gore rubbed them the wrong way. I couldn’t understand this. I kept thinking… I’m not voting for a buddy, I’m voting for someone who is going to shape the future of the Supreme Court.

And look where we are now.


2 Responses to “US legal influence on the decline”

  1. “And look where we are now.”

    We’re on our way but still not there yet. We still have to get a couple more leftist SCOTUS judges off the bench.

    Yeah, I know you hate that idea but I believe the SCOTUS’ sole duty is to interpret the law not make it. I also believe that their interpretation should be limited to the constitutionality of laws and court rulings, not their biased personal beliefs in “fairness” or “justice.”

  2. Interpretation, by definition, is not a science. And the more we eliminate these “leftists” the more irrelevant we become.

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