Supreme Court rules in federally mandated ICJ compliance, arbitration review cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down decisions in two cases Tuesday, including Medellin v. Texas [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], where the Court ruled that President Bush does not have the authority to direct a state court to comply with a ruling from the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Jose Ernesto Medellin [ASIL backgrounder], a Mexican national sentenced to death in Texas for raping and murdering two teenage girls, appealed a November 2006 ruling [text; JURIST report] from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that President Bush "exceeded his constitutional authority" by ordering state court rehearings [JURIST report] for 51 Mexican nationals convicted in US courts. The president's February 2005 memorandum [text] instructed the Texas courts to follow a March 2004 ICJ decision [materials] that held that Medellin and the other Mexican nationals tried in US courts had been denied their Vienna Convention on Consular Relations [PDF text] right to contact the Mexican consulate for legal assistance and that the US was obligated to grant review and reconsideration of their convictions and sentences. The Supreme Court upheld the Texas court's decision in the case, holding that "neither [the ICJ decision] nor the President's Memorandum constitutes directly enforceable federal law that pre-empts state limitations on the filing of successive habeas petitions." Read the Court's opinion [text] per Chief Justice Roberts, along with a concurrence [text] from Justice Stevens and a dissent [text] from Justice Breyer. AP has more.

In Hall Street v. Mattel [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court held that parties cannot contractually agree to supplement terms defining when a court can modify or vacate an arbitration award under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) [USC Title 9 text]. Hall Street Associates leased property to toy manufacturer Mattel and filed suit after Mattel failed to clean up contaminates from its on-site factory. The parties initially agreed to arbitrate the dispute, subject to judicial review of findings of fact and conclusions of law. Sections 10 and 11 of the FAA restricts judicial review of arbitration decisions for the purpose of vacating, modifying or correcting an award to limited instances, such as fraud, and the Court wrote that the statutory grounds found in those sections are exclusive:

The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA or Act), 9 U. S. C. §1 et seq., provides for expedited judicial review to confirm, vacate, or modify arbitration awards. §§9–11 (2000 ed. and Supp. V). The question here is whether statutory grounds for prompt vacatur and modification may be supplemented by contract. We hold that the statutory grounds are exclusive.
In the lower court decision [PDF text], the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit came to a similar conclusion on the exclusivity of terms, but the Supreme Court vacated and remanded the appeals court decision "for consideration of independent issues." Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Souter, along with a dissent [text] from Justice Stevens and a second dissent [text] from Justice Breyer. AP has more.


 

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