Reaffirming the general deference paid to state sovereign immunity, and following in the footsteps of its 1989 decision in DeShaney v. Winnebago County, the Supreme Court this June in Castle Rock v. Gonzales declined to create a constitutional right to sue a Colorado town for damages for its failure to enforce a restraining order against an estranged husband who wound up murdering a couple's children. The ACLU, which saw its arguments rejected in the 7-2 decision, isn't taking it quietly. On Dec. 27 its Women's Rights Project filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) claiming that the police department violated international law by not responding properly to Gonzales's requests for help. (New Standard; CBS 4 Denver; ACLU release). The panel, it argues, should order Ms. Gonzales monetarily compensated and should promulgate standards on handling of domestic violence cases intended to bind law enforcement agencies around the U.S.
Conservative commentators have been warning that the proliferation of international human rights law might some day pose a threat to our national sovereignty and right to govern ourselves according to our own Constitution. If the ACLU wishes to fan these fears and hasten the emergence of a critique of this novel sector of law, it should go right ahead and keep pressing cases like this one.