Judges around the world have long looked to the decisions of the United States Supreme Court for guidance, citing and often following them in hundreds of their own rulings since the Second World War, says the New York Times. But now American legal influence is waning. Even as a debate continues in the court over whether its decisions should ever cite foreign law, a diminishing number of foreign courts seem to pay attention to the writings of American justices. “One of our great exports used to be constitutional law,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. “We are losing one of the greatest bully pulpits we have ever had.”
These days, foreign courts in developed democracies often cite the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in cases concerning equality, liberty and prohibitions against cruel treatment. The rise of new and sophisticated constitutional courts elsewhere is one reason for the Supreme Court's fading influence, legal experts said. The new courts are, moreover, generally more liberal than the Rehnquist and Roberts courts and for that reason more inclined to cite one another. Another reason is the diminished reputation of the United States in some parts of the world, which experts here and abroad said is in part a consequence of the Bush administration's unpopularity around the world.