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Farris Criticizes Use of International Law in Supreme Court Decision

by Staff
May 19, 2010
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PURCELLVILLE, Va., ( -- Yesterday, by a 6 to 3 vote the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for the United States to sentence juvenile offenders to life in prison without parole in non-homicide cases in Graham v. Florida, released May 17, 2010. The Court cited the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and other international law to buttress its constitutional interpretation.

"It is bad enough for the Supreme Court to engage in judicial activism. It is far worse when the justices employ international law in support of their far-reaching edicts," said Michael Farris, chairman of HSLDA. "We have not ratified the UN child's rights treaty--its provisions should not be finding their way into Supreme Court decisions."

Farris was the author of a brief in Graham v. Florida on behalf of 16 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The majority opinion twice references Farris's brief in its discussion of international law. Farris is also the chancellor of Patrick Henry College where he teaches constitutional law.

"There is simply no place for international law or practice in interpreting the American Constitution. International law has its place in deciding truly international cases--but a case involving juvenile offenders in Florida is a domestic case through and through," Farris said. "It was plainly gratuitous for the majority to employ international law in this context."

Farris's brief was filed in direct response to a brief from Amnesty International which had urged the Court to use international law as a binding rule.

Amnesty also argued that the United States was the only nation in the world to sentence juveniles to life without parole. "The materials submitted by Amnesty International included a hodgepodge of letters and emails supposedly on file in Amnesty's offices. Such 'evidence' would not be admissible in a traffic court; it is shocking that the Supreme Court relies on such data to make constitutional decisions," Farris said.

"Our brief demonstrated that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (the UN's official monitoring body) had found that dozens of nations were in violation of the juvenile sentencing standards of the UN child's rights treaty. It is simply fiction to say that the United States is the only nation which authorizes such sentences."

Senator Jim DeMint (South Carolina) introduced a resolution (S. Res. 519) last week that urges President Obama to refrain from sending the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to the Senate for ratification.

"S. Res. 519 seeks to put the Senate of the United States on record that American law and only American law should govern our families and our juvenile courts," Farris said. "I hope that every American who believes that we should remain a self-governing nation will call their Senators today to urge them to become a co- sponsor of S. Res. 519."

Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a 27- year-old, 85,000 member non-profit organization and the preeminent national association advocating the legal right of parents to homeschool their children.

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