Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Foster v. Neilson case brief

Foster v. Neilson


Procedural History:
Appeal from decision for defendant in  dispute over land.  Foster (P) and Elam claimed that a tract ofland in  Louisiana had been granted to them by the Spanish governor

Overview:

Foster (P) and Elam sued to recover a tract of land in Louisiana that the Spanish governor had granted them. Neilson (D) successfully argued that the grant was void because it was made subsequent to the transfer to France and the United States of the territory on which the land was situated. Foster (P) and Elam relied on a treaty between the United States and Spain that provided that all grants of land made by Spain would be ratified by the United States. The case was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court on a writ of error.

Issue:

When the terms of a treaty require a legislative act, can the treaty be considered law before such time as the legislature ratifies and confirms the terms?

Rule:

when the terms of the treaty require a legislative act, the treaty cannot be considred law until such time as the legislature ratifies and confirms the terms.

Analysis:

Some international agreements are self-executing. Others are non-self-executing. The court must decide whether an agreement is to be given effect without further legislation .

Outcome:

(Marshall, C.J.) No. When the terms of a treaty require a legislative act, the treaty cannot be considered law until such time as the legislature ratifies and confirms the terms. The treaty does not operate in itself to ratify or confirm title in land. The legislature must act before the terms of the contract are binding. Affirmed.

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