Is a Treaty the Same As a Law ?

In Quintero v. State, 761 S.W.2d 438 (Tex. App.--El Paso 1988), the El Paso Court of Appeals addressed whether the violation of an extradition treaty rises to the level of an abuse that "shocks the conscience" under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Quintero, 761 S.W.2d at 441. In connection with that claim, the El Paso court stated, "extradition treaties are equivalent to statutes. They are, therefore, despite their international political character, not the supreme law of this land." Id. The latter sentence stating that a treaty is not "supreme law" would seem, in isolation, to be patently false, given the wording of the Supremacy Clause. The sentence makes sense, however, if it is read simply to mean that treaties have power equal to statutes but subordinate to the Constitution. And the structure of the language used by the courts is important. That treaties are "equivalent to" statutes (equal in power) does not mean that treaties are "the equivalent of" statutes (like in signification). That a treaty is equal to a law does not mean that a treaty is the same as a law. And, though a treaty is equal in power to a law, if it be not a law, then a provision that applies only to "laws" cannot apply to treaties, despite their equal status. To say otherwise would be like saying that a provision applying to the Court of Criminal Appeals must necessarily apply also to the Texas Supreme Court simply because the two courts are equal in power.