Saturday, April 23, 2005

Alvarez-Machain II

I had a paper due for baby Con Law yesterday, which I now realize that I should have started before Thursday night at 11. Now, there was some significant roommate/her boyfriend/me drama that was a huge distraction, but it doesn't make me not a procrastinator by any standard.

Last year a group of us went to a human rights law conference at the University of Cinncinati law school, paid for by Uncle Eli (Lilly, via the Plowshares grant). One of the coolest things about the whole conference was that all of us, who had just had Welling's International Law class, could follow exactly what was going on. One of those moments when you realize that you actually are learning things in college. You know, those are always nice.

Anyway, the other amazing part and the last event of the conference was a discussion on the Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain case, led by the two attorneys who would be arguing it before the USSC and who had also been in charge of the A-M criminal case.

(Humberto Alvarez-Machain is a Mexican national who was kidnapped by men hired by the US Drug Enforcement Agency so that he could be arrested once he had been brought into the United States. During his criminal trial, the Supreme Court ruled that kidnapping was an appropriate means by which to extract someone from their country, because it wasn't specifically prohibited by the US-Mexico extradition treaty. Idiots. In the second case, A-M filed a civil suit against his kidnappers under the Alien Tort Crimes Act, a portion of the original Judiciary Act which allows foreign nationals to file suit in US courts for somthing done, in violation of the law of nations, in another country.)

It was something like two days before their brief was due and they wanted to get feedback from their colleagues who were in attendance. Honestly, I got really lost at times, but I faithfully took notes. I never bothered (bad me) to find out how the Court had ruled, so I used the opportunity of this paper to write on the subject. At least I'd know what had been decided.

I can't tell you what an amazing experience it was to be able to look back through my notes from the Cincinnati conference and compare the issues that the attorneys presented and see how the Court answered those questions. And, although my heart sank when I saw that Scalia had written a concurrence, the opinion actually represents a pretty big victory for American human rights lawyers. Alvarez-Machain may have not had suitable standing to bring a civil suit under ATCA, but at least now the ability of others to do so has been affirmed. Woot!