Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Dismisses Medellin’s State Habeas Petition

by Janet K Levit

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals just issued a decision on Ernesto Medellin’s habeas petition, and it comes as little surprise that the Texas court dismissed the petition. In a lengthy decision, the Court concludes that neither Avena nor the President’s memorandum is binding federal law that pre-empts state procedural bar rules.

The Texas cout relies heavily on the Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon decision in concluding that “ICJ decisions are not binding on United States courts. As a result, Medellín, even as one of the named individuals in the decision, cannot show that Avena requires us to set aside Section 5 [Texas’ procedural bar rule] and review and reconsider his Vienna Convention claim.”

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals then contemplated the effect of the President’s memorandum ordering state courts, in the name of comity, to discharge Vienna Convention obligations and give effect to the Avena decision in each of the 51 named cases. The Texas court concluded:

the President’s memorandum ordering us to give effect to the ICJ Avena decision cannot be sustained under the express or implied constitutional powers of the President relied on by Medellín and the United States or under any power granted to the President by an act of Congress cited by Medellín and the United States. As such, the President has violated the separation of powers doctrine by intruding into the domain of the judiciary, and therefore, Medellín cannot show that the President=s memorandum preempts Section 5.

I suspect that we will (again) see Medellin on the Supreme Court’s docket some time soon.


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