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At its last four annual conventions, the American Society of International Law has hosted what has amounted to a long-running debate among Supreme Court justices over the use of foreign and international law in their decisionmaking. On Thursday, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has been a lightning rod in the debate, addressed the convention and barely mentioned the issue, preferring instead to focus on the topic of genocide �– and how lawyers have a responsibility to work against it. “It is the duty of the world to do more than watch,” said Kennedy at the meeting in Washington, D.C., referring to the ongoing genocide in western Sudan’s Darfur region. The justice, indicating he has embarked on a personal study of genocide, lamented the fact that the massacre of 800,000 people in Rwanda a dozen years ago “happened on our watch.” He called on international lawyers to hold nations and international organizations to account as a way to prevent such conduct in the future. The convention marked the 100th anniversary of the association, which indicated its commitment to the importance of international law by issuing a booklet titled, “International Law: 100 Ways it Shapes our Lives.” At its recent conventions, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg defended the use of international law as a resource — though not as the foundation — for Court decisions. In 2004, Justice Antonin Scalia came to the association to offer a counterpoint, asserting that international law was “never relevant” to the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Asked about the issue on Thursday, Kennedy seemed reluctant to weigh in any more than he already has, saying, “We should be judged by what we write.” Kennedy has come in for heavy criticism from the right over his mention of international law in his decisions in Lawrence v. Texas, a victory for gay rights, and in Roper v. Simmons, which struck down the death penalty for juveniles. As he has said in speeches before, Kennedy said Thursday that his only wish is that editorial writers read his opinions before they criticize them. “All nine of us are often vastly amused,” Kennedy said, by editorials that are clearly not based on an actual reading of the text of their decisions.

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