Homegrown laws


Scanning the audience, a security guard’s gaze fell on the back of the Law School’s Glen A. Lloyd auditorium. The guard bounded up the aisle and approached a student in the audience. “Sir, your laptop,” the guard commanded, gesturing outside. The student reluctantly toted his laptop into the hall, where government agents had directed the rest of the audience to leave their belongings before U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ November 9 talk.

His physical security ensured by the horde of guards in the theater, the attorney general had more lofty concerns to ponder. Gonzales told the packed audience that he fears a “growing tendency” among some Supreme Court justices to cite foreign law in their decisions.

Referring to foreign law presents two primary problems, Gonzales asserted, reading closely from a prepared text. First, there is the “problem of selection.” By picking and choosing which foreign laws to consider, the court, Gonzales said, “can be seen as looking over the heads of the crowd and picking out its friends.” The other issue, he said, is undermining the court’s legitimacy and “our sacred text, the Constitution,” by referring to other countries’ precedent instead of America’s.

Although “we must be open to good new ideas whatever their source,” he urged that these ideas be expressed through the political process and not through the courts. Questioning how the “standards of anyone other than the citizens of the United States could decide the will of the people,” Gonzales insisted that his statements must not be “mistaken as isolationism.”

Meredith Meyer, ’06

Photo: Law School Dean Saul Levmore introduces Gonzales.

November 14, 2005