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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Foreign Affairs Federalism and the Separation of Powers


This essay argues that Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council may not portend a more aggressive intervention by the federal courts in enforcing a federal common law of foreign relations. A significant concern that underlies foreign affairs preemption is concern that 50 states might undermine the sole voice of the federal government in representing the nation. This concern, however, applies equally to the federal courts, which are not structurally suited due to their slowness and decentralization for involvement in foreign affairs. Enhancing the effectiveness of foreign policy calls for a reduced role for the judiciary in favor of the concentration of authority in the political branches.

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