548 U.S. 331 (2006), 04-10566, Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon

Docket Nº:Nos. 04-10566, 05-51.
Citation:548 U.S. 331, 126 S.Ct. 2669, 165 L.Ed.2d 557
Party Name:Moises SANCHEZ-LLAMAS, Petitioner, v. OREGON. Mario A. Bustillo, Petitioner, v. Gene M. Johnson, Director, Virginia Department of Corrections.
Case Date:June 28, 2006
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 331

548 U.S. 331 (2006)

126 S.Ct. 2669, 165 L.Ed.2d 557

Moises SANCHEZ-LLAMAS, Petitioner,



Mario A. Bustillo, Petitioner,


Gene M. Johnson, Director, Virginia Department of Corrections.

Nos. 04-10566, 05-51.

United States Supreme Court

June 28, 2006 [*]

Argued March 29, 2006.


[126 S.Ct. 2670] SYLLABUS [*]

Article 36(1)(b) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations provides that if a person detained by a foreign country "so requests, the competent authorities of the receiving State shall, without delay, inform the consular post of the sending State" of such detention, and "inform the [detainee] of his rights under this sub-paragraph." Article 36(2) specifies: "The rights referred to in paragraph 1 . . . shall be exercised in conformity with the laws and regulations of the receiving State, subject to the proviso . . . that the said laws . . . must enable full effect to be given to the purposes for which the rights accorded under this Article are intended." Along with the Convention, the United States ratified the Optional Protocol Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes, which provides: "Disputes arising out of the . . . Convention shall lie within the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice [(ICJ)]." The United States withdrew from the Protocol on March 7, 2005.

[126 S.Ct. 2671] Petitioner in No. 04-10566, Moises Sanchez-Llamas, is a Mexican national. When he was arrested after an exchange of gunfire with police, officers did not inform him that he could ask to have the Mexican Consulate notified of his detention. During interrogation, he made incriminating statements regarding the shootout. Before his trial for attempted murder and other offenses, Sanchez-Llamas moved to suppress those statements on the ground, inter alia, that the authorities had failed to comply with Article 36. The state court denied that motion and Sanchez-Llamas was convicted and sentenced to prison, and the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed. The State Supreme Court also affirmed, concluding that Article 36 does not create rights to consular access or notification that a detained individual can enforce in a judicial proceeding.

Petitioner in No. 05-51, Mario Bustillo, a Honduran national, was arrested and charged with murder, but police never informed him that he could request that the Honduran Consulate be notified of his detention. He was convicted and sentenced to prison, and his conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal. He then filed a habeas petition in state

Page 332

court arguing, for the first time, that authorities had violated his right to consular notification under Article 36. The court dismissed that claim as procedurally barred because he had failed to raise it at trial or on appeal. The Virginia Supreme Court found no reversible error.


Even assuming without deciding that the Convention creates judicially enforceable rights, suppression is not an appropriate remedy for a violation, and a State may apply its regular procedural default rules to Convention claims. Pp. 342-360.

(a) Because petitioners are not in any event entitled to relief, the Court need not resolve whether the Convention grants individuals enforceable rights, but assumes, without deciding, that Article 36 does so. Pp. 342-343.

(b) Neither the Convention itself nor this Court's precedents applying the exclusionary rule support suppression of a defendant's statements to police as a remedy for an Article 36 violation.

The Convention does not mandate suppression or any other specific remedy, but expressly leaves Article 36's implementation to domestic law: Article 36 rights must "be exercised in conformity with the laws . . . of the receiving State." Art. 36(2). Sanchez-Llamas' argument that suppression is appropriate under United States law and should be required under the Court's authority to develop remedies for the enforcement of federal law in state-court criminal proceedings is rejected. "It is beyond dispute that [this Court does] not hold a supervisory power over the [state] courts." Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428, 438, 120 S.Ct. 2326, 147 L.Ed.2d 405. The exclusionary rule cases on which Sanchez-Llamas principally relies are inapplicable because they rest on the Court's supervisory authority over federal courts.

The Court's authority to create a judicial remedy applicable in state court must therefore lie, if anywhere, in the treaty itself. Where a treaty provides for a particular judicial remedy, courts must apply it as a requirement of federal law. Cf., e.g., United States v. Giordano, 416 U.S. 505, 524-525, 94 S.Ct. 1820, 40 L.Ed.2d 341. But where a treaty does not provide a particular remedy, either expressly or implicitly, it is not for the federal courts to impose one on the States through lawmaking of their own. Even if the "full effect" language of Article 36(2) implicitly requires a judicial remedy, as Sanchez-Llamas claims, that [126 S.Ct. 2672] Article equally requires that Article 36(1) rights be exercised in conformity with domestic law. Under domestic law, the exclusionary rule is not a remedy this Court applies lightly. It has been used primarily to deter certain Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations, including, e.g., unconstitutional searches and seizures, Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 655-657, 81 S.Ct. 1684, 6 L.Ed.2d 1081,

Page 333

and confessions exacted in violation of the right against compelled self-incrimination or due process, Dickerson, supra, at 435, 120 S.Ct. 2326. In contrast, Article 36 has nothing to do with searches or interrogations and, indeed, does not guarantee defendants any assistance at all. It secures for foreign nationals only the right to have their consulate informed of their arrest or detention--not to have their consulate intervene, or to have police cease their investigation pending any such notice or intervention. Moreover, the failure to inform a defendant of his Article 36 rights is unlikely, with any frequency, to produce unreliable confessions, see Watkins v. Sowders, 449 U.S. 341, 347, 101 S.Ct. 654, 66 L.Ed.2d 549, or to give the police any practical advantage in obtaining incriminating evidence, see Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 217, 80 S.Ct. 1437, 4 L.Ed.2d 1669. Suppression would also be a vastly disproportionate remedy for an Article 36 violation. The interests Sanchez-Llamas claims Article 36 advances are effectively protected by other constitutional and statutory requirements, including the right to an attorney and to protection against compelled self-incrimination. Finally, suppression is not the only means of vindicating Article 36 rights. For example, diplomatic avenues--the primary means of enforcing the Vienna Convention--remain open. Pp. 343-350.

(c) States may subject Article 36 claims to the same procedural default rules that apply generally to other federal-law claims.

This question is controlled by the Court's holding in Breard v. Greene, 523 U.S. 371, 375, 118 S.Ct. 1352, 140 L.Ed.2d 529, (per curiam), that the petitioner's failure to raise an Article 36 claim in state court prevented him from having the claim heard in a subsequent federal habeas proceeding. Bustillo's two reasons why Breard does not control are rejected.

First, he argues that Breard's procedural default holding was unnecessary to the result because the petitioner there could not demonstrate prejudice from the default and because, in any event, the later enacted Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 superseded any right the petitioner had under the Vienna Convention to have his claim heard on collateral review. Resolution of the procedural default question, however, was the principal reason for denying the Breard petitioner's claim, and the discussion of the issue occupied the bulk of the Court's reasoning. See 523 U.S., at 375-377, 118 S.Ct. 1352. It is no answer to argue that the procedural default holding was unnecessary simply because the petitioner had several other ways to lose.

Second, Bustillo asserts that since Breard, the ICJ's LaGrand and Avena decisions have interpreted the Convention to preclude the application of procedural default rules to Article 36 claims. Although the ICJ's interpretation deserves "respectful consideration," Breard, supra, at 375, 118 S.Ct. 1352, it does not compel the Court to reconsider Breard's understanding

Page 334

of the Convention. "The judicial Power of the United States" is "vested in one supreme Court . . . and . . . inferior courts." U.S. Const., Art. III, §1. That "power . . . extend[s] to . . . treaties," id., §2, and includes the duty "to say what the law is," Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177, 2 L.Ed. 60. [126 S.Ct. 2673] If treaties are to be given effect as federal law, determining their meaning as a matter of federal law "is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department," headed by the "one supreme Court." Ibid. Nothing in the ICJ's structure or purpose suggests that its interpretations were intended to be binding on U.S. courts. Even according "respectful consideration," the ICJ's interpretation cannot overcome the plain import of Article 36(2), which states that the rights it implements "shall be exercised in conformity with the laws . . . of the receiving State." In the United States, this means that the rule of procedural default--which applies even to claimed violations of our own Constitution, see Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 129, 102 S.Ct. 1558, 71 L.Ed.2d 783--applies also to Vienna Convention claims. Bustillo points to nothing in the drafting history of Article 36 or in the contemporary practice of other Convention signatories that undermines this conclusion. LaGrand's conclusion that applying the procedural default rule denies "full effect" to the purposes of Article 36, by preventing...

To continue reading