Lawrence Tribe is an American constitutional scholar and the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at the Harvard Law School. A longstanding proponent of liberal jurisprudence, in 2001 Tribe helped found the American Constitution Society a supposed liberal counterweight to the conservative Federalist Society and was long considered a possible Supreme Court nominee by a Democratic administration. Tribe received his A.B. in math from Harvard in 1962, and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1966. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart from 1967-1968 and became an Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard in 1968, where has taught ever since. A fierce critic of many recent Supreme Court decisions, Tribe has argued over thirty cases before the Court, including the infamous Bush v. Gore in 2000, and is the author of Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes, American Constitutional Law, and co-author of On Reading the Constitution (with Michael Dorf). He is also a former Professor of President Obama and current supporter.
Question: Should the court take international opinion into account?
Laurence Tribe: One of the disputes in the court is how legitimate is it to take account of the experience of other nations in interpreting ones own laws and one’s constitution. I think it’s important that the justices that believe that that’s appropriate will include Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsberg, Souter, Stevens prevail over the justices who think it’s unappropriate like Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts. Important because if our highest court turns its back on the rest of the world in dealing with seemingly local matters like lethal injections, or the execution of juveniles, or the execution of the mentally retarded, that will help sever the ties of the United States with the rest of the world; make extradition harder; make us more isolated; play into the forces of isolation. So the more that happens, the harder it will be for us to build the coalition that we need to build in order to deal with fundamentally global and international issues. So in a sense, the court can do more harm than good in some ways if it moves in the rightward direction that it’s going to move.