Supreme Court’s Global Influence Is Waning

Interesting article about the decreasing status of the American legal system as the standard against which others were measured. Inevitable, I suppose, although the plummet didn’t have to be quite as fast as we’ve made it.

“One of our great exports used to be constitutional law,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. “We are losing one of the greatest bully pulpits we have ever had.”

From 1990 through 2002, for instance, the Canadian Supreme Court cited decisions of the United States Supreme Court about a dozen times a year, an analysis by The New York Times found. In the six years since, the annual citation rate has fallen by half, to about six.

Australian state supreme courts cited American decisions 208 times in 1995, according to a recent study by Russell Smyth, an Australian economist. By 2005, the number had fallen to 72.

Justice Michael Kirby of the High Court of Australia said that his court no longer confines itself to considering English, Canadian and American law. “Now we will take information from the Supreme Court of India, or the Court of Appeal of New Zealand, or the Constitutional Court of South Africa,” he said in an interview published in 2001 in The Green Bag, a legal journal. “America” he added, “is in danger of becoming something of a legal backwater.”

the author neal stephenson makes a point something like this:

the real influence of american culture on the world is through Starsky & Hutch and CSI reruns. when some peasant in the back of beyond expects to be read his* Miranda* warning after arrest, or that police interrogation immediately end when an attorney is demanded, its only a matter of time before american values of jurisprudence are universal.

of course australian courts cite fewer american cases as australian precedent develops its own interpretation of the concepts appearing in the american decisions. come on, think this through.

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