Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Reid v. Covert case brief 354 US 1 (1957)

Reid v. Covert, 354 US 1 (1957)

-       Defendants were civilian dependents of armed servicemen who murdered their husbands on the overseas bases where they were stationed.  They were tried by court-martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), where they were tried without a grand jury or a jury trial.  The dependents alleged that they were denied a right to a jury trial and right to have their indictment presented to a grand jury pursuant to the Constitution.  The right to try civilian dependents on the overseas base was granted by treaty.
-       The United States argues Missouri v. Holland – the UCMJ was made because it was necessary and proper to execute a treaty, and thus it does not need to comply with the Constitution (though it might be unconstitutional without a treaty, it is OK because it was made pursuant to a treaty)
-       The Supreme Court finds that “no agreement with a foreign nation can confer power on the Congress, or on any other branch of Government, which is free from the restraints of the Constitution.”
  • Nothing in the language of Article VI’s supremacy clause intimates that treaties and laws enacted pursuant to them do not have to comply with the provisions of the Constitution – laws pursuant to treaties must comply with the Constitution
-       The Supreme Court also says that treaties still prevail over inconsistent state law, and the Tenth Amendment is not a barrier to the federal government’s authority to make treaties
-       So the dependents were entitled to their constitutional rights in trial
-       The much more complicated question – what constitutional rights do people like these dependents have?  What rights to foreigners have abroad?
-       Rule: if you have a treaty which conflicts with a subsequent Congressional act, the Congressional act prevails over the treaty unless it violates the constitution

Example of application of Reid: If the United States entered into a treaty in which it agreed that abortion was illegal, and Congress attempted to write implementing legislation for that treaty, that implementing legislation would be invalid because it violates the Constitution (Roe v. Wade)

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