Martha F. Davis

Document Type



States have a direct responsibility to implement the U.S.'s international obligations in many areas governed by existing human rights treaties. This responsibility is drawn from the nature of federalism, the U.S. Constitution and from states' own constitutions. In light of the relatively populist structure of state governmental institutions, this implementation may be appropriately accomplished by state courts as well as the political branches of state governments. International law has a particularly important role to play in this process, particularly when courts construe states' affirmative constitutional grants - for example, for public health, education or welfare - that have no federal analogs. A case study of Article XVII, s. 3 of the New York State Constitution, which mandates that the state legislature provide for the public health, illustrates the concrete ways in which international law should inform state courts' constitutional decision-making.

Date of Authorship for this Version



human rights, international law, Law

Original Citation

Originally published in N.Y.U. Review of Law & Social Change, Vol. 30, No. 3, pp. 359-409, April 2006.