Document Type


Publication Date

January 2010

Journal Title

Valparaiso Law Review


This Essay introduces a collection of essays that have evolved from papers presented at a conference on “International Law in the Domestic Context.” The conference was a response to the questions raised by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Medellín v. Texas and also a product of our collective curiosity about how other states address tensions between international obligations and overlapping regimes of national law.

Our constitutional tradition speaks with many voices on the subject of the relationship between domestic and international law. In order to gain a broader perspective on that relationship, we invited experts on foreign law to introduce us to the way other states attempt to reconcile international commitments and the domestic constitutional order.

The essays collected here were presented in three separate panels during the conference. The organization of the volume follows the same organizational principle. The first three papers thus focus on questions relating to the implementation of international human rights as domestic law. The two papers that follow address issues relating to international obligations and the foreign affairs power. The final section, which comprises four papers, provides a comparative perspective on how other international law is introduced into the domestic legal systems of Australia, Canada, China and the United Kingdom.

Each contribution attests to the continuing relevance of Holmes’ dictum: the life of the law is not logic but experience. Programmatic statements in founding documents or in law review articles do not determine the status of international law in the domestic context. It is worked out through the various legal histories of each state. As each state grapples to reconcile its national legal traditions with its international obligations, it is worthwhile to pause and consider the experiences of others. It is our hope that this volume contributes to that process.


Forthcoming in 44 Valparaiso Law Review (2010)