Category Archive 'Harold Hongju Koh'

30 Mar 2009

Obama Appoints Internationalist Yale Law School Dean to be State Department Legal Advisor

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Meghan Clyne, in the New York Post, sees the appointment of ultraleftist Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh to the top legal position in the State Department as a step toward putting Koh on the Supreme Court.

Judges should interpret the Constitution according to other nations’ legal “norms.” Sharia law could apply to disputes in US courts. The United States constitutes an “axis of disobedience” along with North Korea and Saddam-era Iraq.

Those are the views of the man on track to become one of the US government’s top lawyers: Harold Koh.

President Obama has nominated Koh — until last week the dean of Yale Law School — to be the State Department’s legal adviser. In that job, Koh would forge a wide range of international agreements on issues from trade to arms control, and help represent our country in such places as the United Nations and the International Court of Justice.

It’s a job where you want a strong defender of America’s sovereignty. But that’s not Koh. He’s a fan of “transnational legal process,” arguing that the distinctions between US and international law should vanish. …

Koh has called America’s focus on the War on Terror “obsessive.” In 2004, he listed countries that flagrantly disregard international law — “most prominently, North Korea, Iraq, and our own country, the United States of America,” which he branded “the axis of disobedience.”

He has also accused President George Bush of abusing international law to justify the invasion of Iraq, comparing his “advocacy of unfettered presidential power” to President Richard Nixon’s. And that was the first Bush — Koh was attacking the 1991 operation to liberate Kuwait, four days after fighting began in Operation Desert Storm.

Koh has also praised the Nicaraguan Sandinistas’ use in the 1980s of the International Court of Justice to get Congress to stop funding the Contras. Imagine such international lawyering by rogue nations like Iran, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela today, and you can see the danger in Koh’s theories.

Koh, a self-described “activist,” would plainly promote his views aggressively once at State. He’s not likely to feel limited by the letter of the law — in 1994, he told The New Republic: “I’d rather have [former Supreme Court Justice Harry] Blackmun, who uses the wrong reasoning in Roe [v. Wade] to get the right results, and let other people figure out the right reasoning.”

Worse, the State job might be a launching pad for a Supreme Court nomination. (He’s on many liberals’ short lists for the high court.) Since this job requires Senate confirmation, it’s certainly a useful trial run.

More background, from Volokh.


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