Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Law on Imaginary Problem Creates Real Ones

On November 2 the voters of Oklahoma overwhelmingly passed an initiative that bans state judges from considering international or Islamic sharia law in deciding cases. So far as anyone knows, no state judge in Oklahoma has ever used sharia law in a deciding a case, so that part of the law, which probably got people to vote for it, was and is completely pointless.

As for international law, judges in Oklahoma do consider that from time to time. Oklahoma is home to a whole bunch of Indian tribes, which are, legally, foreign nations, and in resolving disputes between Indians and non-Indians courts have from time to time considered both the laws of the tribes and the treaties that govern relations between the tribes and the US. The kind of law that covers the interpretation of treaties is usually called "international law." Are Oklahoma judges forbidden from considering that now? Some lawyers have also raised the question of disputes between Oklahoma-based companies and foreign firms; are Oklahoma courts forbidden from considering the commercial treaties that govern how American companies do business with French or Japanese or Mexican companies?

In the name of solving a problem that does not exist, the clever voters of Oklahoma have created a real problem that may someday involve the state in a real legal conundrum -- if some judge doesn't toss out the whole thing long before then.

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