Ought the Constitution Follow the Flag?
Reading over the last few posts, it seems very clear that there is an array of extremely interesting angles to the question of whether the Constitution ought to follow the flag in all instances. Tim, Peter, David, and Bill all have raised great questions about the normative dimensions of extraterritoriality and intraterritoriality. In my book I generally eschewed this dimension, though in the conclusion I discuss it a tiny bit. (I have also written about the GTMO context in “The Geography of Justice,” Fordham Law Review 2005). But I can’t say I have given this topic nearly enough thought. Nonetheless, this is a good opportunity to ponder some of these questions.
As to the connection between 14th Amendment and the Insular Cases, Christina Burnett has written what I think is a pretty definitive treatment in the current issue of the Columbia Law Review. She sees many parallels, and also takes issue along the way with the conventional understanding of the Insular Cases. Since Christina is probably the world’s leading expert on the Insular Cases, I think her views are worth careful attention.
The second broad issue raised in the posts concerns whether it is perhaps wrong to view the denial of incorporation—that is, the denial of the full Bill of Rights—as a wholly bad thing. Perhaps solicitude for local custom and differing norms requires that we sometimes not extend the Bill of Rights to all American territory. There are cases concerning US possessions in the Pacific that to some degree consider this issue. In King v. Andrus, for example, the district court carefully considered indigenous cultural practices in Samoa in deciding whether it would be impractical to apply the right to a jury trial. (It was not impractical, the court decided).
Putting aside the details of King, at first blush I see some merit to the multiculturalist view. But, I think much turns on how the particular territory was acquired. If a territory is conquered, or acquired from another conqueror (e.g., occupied Berlin, the Philippines) then it seems more appropriate to weigh local norms and practices. The people in question did not consent to be governed. But if a territory willingly joins the union (Texas), less so. It is arguably part of the bargain of membership (this is basically the EU practice, for example). This logic, applied for example to Indian country, would suggest substantial deference to local custom or preference, and indeed that is what we see in, say, the 1st Amendment context. That said, deference to local custom can quickly morph into paternalistic and self-serving denial of justice. It is not obvious how we police this.
Status of Forces Agreements raise different issues. Off the top of my head I don’t find SOFAs to be problematic in the abstract, though in extreme cases (where foreign troops are completely outside any local control whatsoever, as was the case in Iraq) they look like naked exercises of power. At the same time, though, I don’t think acceptance of SOFAs supports a more general norm, as Peter alludes to, of a separate legal system for foreigner-on-foreigner crime. I think if one Nigerian assaults another on the streets of New York it is entirely appropriate to arrest and try him/her via the normal rules of American law.
Why then is the same scenario, with two American soldiers, different? Only because it is a necessary part of the security bargain in places like Japan or Germany, and arguably in the interests of both nations, as well as neighbor nations. This is maybe pure foreign affairs exceptionalism, but I think the reality is absent SOFAs we would see a much smaller American military presence abroad, and that in turn would, in many parts of the world, have seriously detrimental effects on regional security. I don’t see that countervailing factor in ordinary crimes by aliens against aliens. (Also, foreign stationed troops live far more separate lives than do ordinary migrants, so the spillover effects of such a rule are smaller too).
As these sketchy comments suggest, there is a lot more thinking to do here.