July 14th, 2009
04:44 PM ET
5 years ago

Sotomayor: Foreign law cannot be used to interpret Constitution

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Judge Sonia Sotomayor asserted Tuesday that foreign law cannot be used to assist judges in their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

"American law does not permit the use of foreign law or international law to interpret the Constitution," she told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "There is no debate on that question."

She noted, however, that there are situations when American law instructs a judge to look at foreign law. For example, she noted, there are instances when the United States has signed a treaty with an unclear interpretation under certain circumstances. In those instances, U.S. courts may examine the interpretation of the treaty by courts in other countries.

Several of Sotomayor's conservative critics, in reviewing her position on the role of international law, have expressed concern over remarks she made before the ACLU in Puerto Rico in April.

During that speech, Sotomayor said she shares the idea "of Justice (Ruth Bader) Ginsburg in thinking or in believing that unless American courts are more open to discussing the ideas raised by foreign cases and by international cases that we are going to lose influence in the world."

Sotomayor also said in that speech that "to the extent that we have freedom of ideas, international law and foreign law will be very important in the discussion of how to think about the unsettled issues in our own legal system."

–CNN's Bill Mears contributed to this report


Filed under: Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
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