St Louis, MO asked in Constitutional Law and International Law for Missouri

Q: Does Missouri have to honor treaties of the United States of America? If so does this also mean with foreign treaties?

2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
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A: Yes, Missouri, like all states in the United States, is constitutionally obligated to honor treaties made by the federal government. Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, commonly known as the Supremacy Clause, establishes that federal law, including treaties, is the supreme law of the land. Therefore, state governments, including Missouri, are bound by the terms of treaties made by the federal government.

This principle applies not only to treaties made with foreign countries but also to treaties made with Native American tribes within the United States. Treaties are considered part of federal law and hold legal authority over state laws when they conflict.

So, to answer your question, yes, Missouri must honor both international treaties made by the United States and treaties made with Native American tribes within its jurisdiction, as long as they are valid and in accordance with federal law.

A: Not necessarily. A treaty is an obligation of the federal government. It is not binding domestic law unless it has language expressing that it is "self-executing" upon ratification or it has been implemented by an act of Congress.

In Medellin v. Texas, the US government had ratified the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations in 1969 which provides that foreign nationals who are arrested or detained be given notice without delay of their right to have their embassy or consulate notified of their arrest.

In 1993, Medellin and other gang member raped and murdered a 14-year old girl and a 16-year-old girl in Texas. Medellin was arrested. Texas did not give him notice under the treaty. After being read his Miranda rights, he confessed, convicted, and sentenced to death.

Mexico sued the US government in the ICJ claiming that US had failed to give the required notice to 51 Mexican nationals including Medellin. The ICJ ruled that the 51 were all entitled to review and reconsideration of their convictions and sentences. (the Avena Judgment)

The US Supreme Court held that domestic laws governed the implementation of treaties. The Avena Judgment was not binding and no domestic law had been enacted by Congress implementing the requiring of the Vienna convention. As an international treaty, it was between nations "and only nations." So, Texas was not obliged to give the notice required by the convention or to abide by the Avena Judgment.

Medellin was executed in 2008.

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