Bans on court use of sharia/international law advance in Arizona and die in Mississippi and South Dakota

Readers may recall that I have examined efforts to prohibit state courts from using or referencing sharia or international law (see here and here). Last week some of these bills began to move through the legislative process, so an update seemed in order:

Arizona: HB 2582, the state’s proposed ban on the use of (among other things) sharia law, canon law, halacha, and karma by the state’s courts advanced in the House Judiciary committee on a 5-4 vote. (video here)

During testimony, the proponent admitted he could find no instance where the Arizona state courts had advanced or used sharia or other sectarian law.

The proponent acknowledged direct citation to the Bible would not be allowed but stated “to the extent that the country has been founded on Judeo-Christian values, which is a truism, but we call it [in the bill] the “Anglo-American tradition”, we cannot escape from that. ”

Additionally, Rep. Albert Hale expressed grave concerns over the impact this bill, as written, would have on the recognition of tribal court judgments as many Native American tribes in Arizona are considered sovereign nations (such as the Navajo Nation) and their judicial orders in civil and other matters might therefore be prohibited from being recognized by Arizona state courts.

Rep. Cecil Ash, however, opposed the bill in part because of the bill’s apparent ban on citations to the Bible. Rep. Ash said in explaining his vote: “If you get to where you can’t quote the Bible, if you can’t use the Bible as the basis for any decision? I think when you have a legal system that has been founded on Judeo-Christian principles and a government essentially founded on that basis…We have a strong foundation in those principles and while I appreciate what they [the proponents] are trying to accomplish I just don’t think this will do it.”

In addition to HB 2532, a new constitutional amendment (HCR 2033) was introduced:

Provides state’s courts shall not consider, enforce or otherwise incorporate into any decision on the merits the legal precepts of other nations or cultures that run counter to the laws of the state unless expressly ratified by bicameralism and presentment in the state legislature or duly ratified as a treaty by the Senate of the United States. Provides state courts shall uphold and adhere to the law as provided in the United States constitution, the Arizona Constitution, the United States Code, federal regulations adopted pursuant to the United States code, established common law, the laws Arizona and rules adopted pursuant to the laws of Arizona and, if necessary, the laws of another state of the United States provided the law of the other state does not incorporate directly or by reference international law or the precepts of nations or cultures.

Arkansas: SB 97 is set for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 23.

Kansas: HB 2087 has been removed from the House Judiciary Committee and sent instead to the House Committee on Appropriations (see page 285 of the House Journal here).

Mississippi: Both HB 301, which specifically banned the use of shaira by name and HB 525 died. Mississippi’s legislature required all bills to advance out of their respective committees by at least February 1. Neither advanced, nor does it appear there were any committee hearings on them.

South Dakota: The House Judiciary committee voted 13-0 to kill HJR 1004, a proposed constitutional amendment that reader  “No such court [i.e. South Dakota state court] may apply international law, the law of any foreign nation, or any foreign religious or moral code with the force of law in the adjudication of any case under its jurisdiction.” (Real Audio here).

However, the South Dakota Senate has introduced its own version (SB 201) and directed it into the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee where it was subsequently “deferred to the 41st day” (South Dakota’s legislature only meets for 40 legislative days, thus this action killed the bill).

Declares “foreign law, legal code, or system, means any law, legal code, or system of a jurisdiction outside of any state or territory of the United States, including international organizations and tribunals, and applied by that jurisdiction’s courts, administrative bodies, or other formal or informal tribunals…Any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision is void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any law, legal code, or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the constitutions of the United States and the State of South Dakota.”

Texas: HB 999 declares “”foreign law” means a law, rule, or legal code of a jurisdiction outside of the states and territories of the United States…A ruling or decision of a court, arbitrator, or administrative adjudicator may not be based on a foreign law if the application of that law would violate a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution or the constitution of this state.”