Over and over again during the past few decades, the federal government has launched ambitious international prosecutions in the service of U.S. national security goals. These extraterritorial prosecutions of terrorists, arms traffickers, and drug lords have forced courts to grapple with a question that has long been latent in the law: What outer boundaries does the Constitution place on criminal jurisdiction? Answering this question, the federal courts have crafted a new due process jurisprudence. This Article argues that this jurisprudence is fundamentally wrong. By implicitly constitutionalizing concerns for international comity, the new due process jurisprudence usurps the popular branches’ traditional foreign relations powers. And in the name of protecting defendants’ presumed interests, the new due process jurisprudence may end up badly undermining them by incentivizing a turn to harsher, alternative national security measures—drone strikes, for example, and military detention in Guant´anamo Bay. Moreover, because of certain structural features of the international law enforcement system, U.S. courts have applied the new due process jurisprudence generally—perhaps even exclusively—in precisely that class of cases to which it should not be applied. None of this needs to be. Borrowing from choice-of-law doctrine, I argue that a coherent due process jurisprudence would focus solely on the unfairness, if any, that flows from actual conflicts between federal criminal law and the local criminal law of the place where the defendant acted. A due process jurisprudence reformulated to focus on actual conflicts protects both the liberty of criminal defendants and global public safety.
Extraterritorial Criminal Jurisdiction,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol114/iss4/1