Medellin and Teaching

Medellin and Teaching

I just finished reading and absorbing Medellin today. I mentioned the case several times in my Constitutional Law I class in the fall, and students seemed quite intrigued by the interesting fact pattern and issues presented by the case.

Which leads me to the following question: Can readers think of a good place to teach Medellin in an introductory Constitutional Law class? At GW, our required, introductory Constitutional Law focuses on structural issues (federalism and separation of powers). That means that one large part of the class is spent on the Commerce Clause/Spending Clause/Tenth Amendment, and the other large part of the class tends to focus on Youngstown/war on terror cases/Chadha/executive privliege.

Where can you fit Medellin in? As part of the Youngstown discussion? Can you make the self-executing issue part of a Constitutional Law course? Have others thought of teaching Medellin in a Constitutional Law course, or have they perhaps taught Sanchez-Llamas in their classes before?

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Charles Gittings

Well I’m neither a law professor or a lawyer, but I have spent fully the last six years up to my eyeballs in the issues of the Bush administrations detainee policies, and I definitely think the self-executing treaty doctrine should be a topic after seeing it mangled and misrepresented in so many briefs and opinions relating to those issues.

And while I suppose many would say it belongs in an international law course, I’d actually disagree with that strongly because:

1) One of the major reasons for adopting the Constitution in the first place was to implement the peace treaty with Great Britain,

2) The Constitution itself is an international treaty; indeed, perhaps even a non-self-executing one.

3) The primary use of the doctrine appears to be the nullification of ratified treaties.

Vlad Perju


I would think either in discussing the Treaty Clause and self-executing treaties or Youngstown. Medellin makes sense to teach in both contexts.

Roger Alford


If you teach Dames &Moore v. Regan, that would seem to be a good place to bring it in to the course. If you don’t, I would add it to the course (along with Curtiss-Wright).