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Medellin Decision


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals today decided the case of Ex parte Medellín. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away Medellín's federal habeas petition, noting that numerous obstacles to federal relief made state habeas the more appropriate procedure. See Medellín v. Dretke, No. 04-5928.

In June of this year, the Supreme Court decided in Bustillo v. Johnson, a companion case of Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, that state procedural default rules still apply to Vienna Convention claims, notwithstanding the decision of the International Court of Justice in the Avena case. Given that holding, the Texas CCA's rejection of the same argument was a foregone conclusion.

What makes this case different is that Medellín was a party to the Avena case, and the President had issued a memorandum to the Attorney General that the United States would comply with its obligation under the Optional Protocol to obey that decision by having state courts hear the claims. Today the CCA decided that this memorandum did not have the force of law to trump a state statute.

There is no doubt that Medellín will file a certiorari petition, and there is a substantial chance it will be granted. An alternative ground on which this case could have been decided (and CJLF argued it should) is that Medellín has already had the adjudication that Avena says he is entitled to. Judge Hervey agreed in a concurring opinion.


Is Medellin a separation of powers case or a federalism case or both?

It's primarily the executive v. judicial angle. No one doubts that the feds can trump the states on treaty matters if they do so properly.

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