Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Scott v. Emerson IV: "It Is Humiliating"

When we left him, Justice Scott had set the stage: laws are generally and presumptively local; if a state chooses to apply foreign law, it does so voluntarily and as a matter of comity.

Having set the stage, Justice Scott moves in closer. Two considerations suggest that Missouri should decline to apply foreign law here. First, "[i]t is a humiliating spectacle, to see the courts of a State confiscating the property of her own citizens by the command of a foreign law." States that free slaves are enforcing their own laws; should not Missouri do the same?

The geography of Missouri makes it especially vulnerable. "On almost three sides the State of Missouri is surrounded by free soil." "[N]umberless" slaves might be freed when "those living along an extreme frontier" sent them even briefly across the border.

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