By Walter Olson
Just before the holiday I sent off to Encounter Books the manuscript of my next book, tentatively titled Schools for Misrule: Law Schools and an Overlawyered America. One of the themes the book explores is how, after years of arguing that courts should read the U.S. Constitution as requiring the adoption of the liberal policy agenda of the moment (welfare rights, free health care, or whatever), cutting-edge law school thinking now promotes the idea that international human rights law requires the adoption of that same agenda. Thus the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in San Antonio v. Rodriguez (1973) and Milliken v. Bradley (1974) that the U.S. Constitution does not mandate (respectively) “Robin Hood” school finance redistribution and school busing across district lines; now it’s argued that both decisions need to be revisited and overturned as contrary to (ever-evolving) conceptions of international human rights. Similarly, there are said to be internationally recognized rights to government-provided housing, day care, and even (at least in Europe) tourism.
These notions are at odds with longstanding ideas of sovereignty and national independence, as held by (among many others) the Founders of this Republic. That they could also pose more direct dangers to individual liberty is suggested by a news item that drew only passing attention a few weeks ago: Chicago Mayor and long-time anti-gun advocate Richard Daley convened an assembly on global issues at which (per the Chicago Sun-Times) he “convinced more than a dozen of his counterparts from around the world to approve a resolution urging ‘redress against the gun industry through the courts of the world’ in The Hague.” According to another local news report, Daley “said American gun manufacturers should be held responsible in the World Court, since American-made guns are used in violent crime elsewhere in the world.” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and the mayor of Mexico City were among those endorsing the idea. David Kopel at Volokh Conspiracy has much more on the conditions that would have to be met for the World Court to assert jurisdiction.
Chicago and its mayor were in the Second Amendment spotlight most recently with the McDonald case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the city’s ultra-strict anti-gun ordinance as in violation of the Bill of Rights. But the real antecedent of Daley’s latest idea was the late-Nineties litigation ginned up by anti-gun advocates and trial lawyers on behalf of three dozen cities and counties, which mostly fared poorly in court, yet still, through sheer cost-infliction, very nearly achieved its goal of off-the-statute-books gun control through litigation). That litigation campaign was decisively rejected and stopped in its tracks by Congress in the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, signed by then-President George W. Bush in 2005. In other words, Daley is seeking an international end run around both the Bill of Rights and the democratically expressed will of the American people. Aren’t Chicago voters tired of this yet?