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Bond v. U.S.: Supreme Court Hears Thumb-Sized Federal Case

The government embarrasses itself by bringing a chemical weapons charge for a burned thumb.

by
Hans A. von Spakovsky and Andrew Kloster

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November 8, 2013 - 8:00 am
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The U.S. Supreme Court rang with laughter at times on Tuesday as the justices heard arguments in Bond v. U.S. Unfortunately for the government, most of that laughter came at its expense.

Despite the moments of levity, the case will settle a very serious question: whether the Treaty Power can be used to expand the powers of Congress. Put another way, the case cuts to whether or not our constitutional government is one of limited, enumerated powers.

It’s bizarre that federal prosecutors ever brought this case to trial, much less took it all the way to the Supreme Court. They actually made a federal case out of a burned thumb. But what began with a lovers’ triangle became legally translated into a serious question about the international Chemical Weapons Convention, the same treaty the United States and other nations are citing in our actions against Syria.

On Tuesday, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., who was not responsible for making the original decision to prosecute the case, was in the awkward position of having to defend that decision, which was derided by some of the justices on more than one occasion.

In 2006, Carol Anne Bond discovered that her husband had impregnated her best friend. Seeking revenge, Bond applied two different chemicals to the doorknob, mailbox, and car door of the now-former friend. One chemical was stolen from her employer; the other, normally used to print photographs, was ordered legally from Amazon.com.

The intended victim apparently detected the caustic chemical trap early on. Her only injury was a minor burn on her thumb. The local district attorney in Lansdale, PA, could easily have prosecuted the case as a state-law assault.

However, the federal government chose to step in.

The government charged Bond with violating the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act. The 1998 Act implemented an international treaty intended to eliminate the production and use of chemical weapons by nation-states. Importantly, the treaty contains no language targeting individuals who make or use chemical weapons. As Bond’s lawyers wryly remarked in their petition:

A domestic dispute culminating in a thumb burn is not an obvious candidate for a federal prosecution.

Tuesday marked the second time that this case has come before the Supreme Court. After Bond was convicted, she challenged the 1998 law implementing the treaty as beyond Congress’ enumerated powers. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld her conviction, holding that individual citizens had no standing to challenge violations of the Tenth Amendment.

But two years ago, the Supreme Court overturned the Third Circuit, ruling unanimously that Bond could challenge the law.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, wrote:

Federalism secures the freedom of the individual … the individual liberty secured by federalism is not simply derivative of the rights of the States.

It would have been an odd position indeed to hold that a defendant could not challenge the law under which she was being prosecuted.

With that, the Supreme Court returned the case to the Third Circuit to reconsider Bond’s challenge. Once again, the appellate court upheld her conviction, relying on an almost century-old decision by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in the case of Missouri v. Holland, and claiming that as long as the treaty is valid, any implementing law must be valid, too. Bond, however, argues that the implementing law was invalid because it was otherwise beyond the scope of federal authority.

The government’s position in this case is frightening. In essence, Verrilli argues that once a treaty is signed by the president and ratified by the Senate, Congress has the power to pass any law necessary and proper to implement the treaty.

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Top Rated Comments   
It's absolutely happening. The people pushing for unlimited government and maintaining citizen ignorance on the subject will just turn around and call you a crackpot for saying so too.

You can't call a duck a duck anymore because it didn't quack...98% of certified government scientists agree that it doesn't sound like a quack and your argument is invalid because it lacks the proper certification. Now get back in your corner you relgious racist while they try to heal the planet and stop the rise of the oceans. (Because that doesn't sound religious at all!)

Interesting days we live in.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
"A constitutional system of limited government cannot have a “loophole” through which the federal government can get unlimited authority. The treaty power of Article II is no such loophole."

I agree, but please note, all around, day on day, week on week, month on month, we are fast becoming a system of unlimited government. A change of a justice or two and we would be there and this case could easily be a 'loophole' indeed.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
As I get older I find myself in agreement with Nietzsche who believed that in a Post-Modern age the only natural drive left in humans as the Will to Power (the other drive, which modernity tamed, he believed, was our religious instinct). Now, the Founders pre-dated Nietzsche be a century or more. More to the point, how can a society defend itself against an almost constant attack by people who are consumed by the Will to Power?

Progressives have the patience of Job. They are relentless; if they cannot obtain their goals, they train future generations of Progressives to carry-out their relentless drive for Power. Fighting Progressives requires an equally relentless drive and willingness to take the fight to them. However, most people just want to live their lives; they do not have the commensurate Will to Power that the Progressives possess.

Our Republic resembles the fictional kingdom of Westerlos from the Game of Thrones. The Kings built a magnificent wall along their northern frontiers to keep the Evil out. Originally, the Wall was manned by the best - an elite force of men totally dedicated to the defense of the realm. But, over centuries the force devolved into a ramshackle force of the elderly, the criminal and the insane. The Kingdom, after 1000 years, no longer believed Evil even existed to the North. Our Constitution is the Wall. It is under constant attack, and its defenders are aging Constitutionalists whose faint memories of a time past, better times, they will take to their graves.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (33)
All Comments   (33)
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The government must argue this, or what will they do with the small arms treaty?
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
This case is about getting a precedent in the Supreme Court so that, in the future, if they can pull off a UN firearms treaty, they can do an end-around the 2nd Amendment.

Anyone remember how Obama kept talking about "international norms"? That's a clue.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is absolutely about the Arms Treaty. If they can get a precedent under this ruling, then they think they have an opening for gun control under that treaty whether it's ratified or not, Kerry and the President both have signed it.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Commented before I read any others so it's interesting that we've come to the exact same conclusion!
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I often wonder if the Prog scum only have Ostupid in the white house to get Eric Holder at Justice, so he could continue destroying the rule of law in this country.
Why else does he run these red herrings by us so often, with no apparent reason for them?
There is always a reason, but noone wants to admit that the only way to stop Holder is to hang him.
Period.
He is pressing this so he can use UN BS to take guns away, to tax people illegally, to destroy this country and especially the Constitution, with its inconvenient bill of rights. Thanks to Obumbles, we now have two entirely unqualified, nearly retarded female political hacks who sit as Supreme Court justices. They will decide whatever they are told to decide.
The more bizarre cases seem to have no meaning, but that is a ruse. They are laying the legal groundwork to take apart the last few shreds of the Constitution that remain, but it must be done in obscure, trivial cases, lest they catch the public eye.
The major defect in the American Justice system is its devotion to precedent, no matter how stupid or diabolical. Once the Supreme Court has taken a right away, it is gone. The Civil War was fought to overturn one really stupid decision. They should have just shot the Justices.
That we let twelve unelected officials decide our most important decisions makes us no better than Henry VIII England, where no man's head was safe. We are a Republic no more, not even a democracy, really. We are only allowed to choose from the menu given us by our betters.
Luckily, those "betters" still bleed. It may well come to that.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
and even if Bond wins, the government spent him into bankruptcy using his own tax dollars, unless the court orders damages for him, which i seriously doubt will happen.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think we all know exactly what Amendment they would euthanize if this conviction is upheld by the Supreme Court.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is a movement afoot at the UN to outlaw blasphemy (because Muslims are so sensitive.) Imagine that it passes and the US signs on to it. We would have essentially gutted the First Amendment if this case is upheld. And as President Petulance views the Constitution as "a charter of negative rights" I think he would sign it.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is a constitution of negative rights, the freedom from government interference, for example in your free speech. The progressive constitution is one of positive rights, rights other have to your property, if you have more than average.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
If a statement is true is it blasphemy?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Blasphemy is truly in the eye of the beholder.
You ask me the time of day.
I am offended.
You go to jail.
See? Simple.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes. If it turns out to be true, they'll dig you up and execute you again.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Only if you're Cromwell.
You're not, are you?
You had me worried for a minute. We could really use a Cromwell about now, but I hate bloodshed.
Can't you wait until I die?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
"This principle did not sit well with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who aggressively defended the government’s position in favor of an expansive reading of federal authority. She claimed it would be “deeply ironic” if the Supreme Court invalidated the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act just as we are trying to deal with Syria. But Bond is not challenging the validity of the treaty itself; she is challenging the authority of Congress to pass a federal law that usurps the traditional police power of the states. "


Here's the difficulty of appointing affirmative action Marxists to the federal courts: When they demonstrate their inability to apply even the most basic common sense to a question, we can never know whether it is due to their devotion to Marxist ideology, which causes them to utterly disregard truth, or to simple stupidity.


Either explanation suits Sotomayor.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Is it her ideological belief in the supreme power of government prohibits her from understanding that the Constitution provides limits on government power OR is it her blind faith in the wisdom of Obama that leads her to side with the government on everything? If the latter, I hope she realizes that, absent a third term, someone else will be President in 2017?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
She's an idiot. She does as she's told.
There is no "there", there.
Dumb as a rock.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
The worst of it is that she's young and likely be like Ginsberg and live to be umpteen bajillion years old.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
They say you can find good and bad reasons for almost anything, which is why, when you attack someone else's actions, it's so easy to attack their motives as well. You might not know their motives, so you make them up, and make them sound as bad as possible. (Children know all about this. "You're making me go to bed at bedtime because you just don't love me!")

Similarly, it is important not just to do the right thing, but for the right reasons. Sending your child to bed at bedtime so that she will get a good night's sleep is a good reason. Sending her to bed so that she won't interfere while you cook crystal meth is a bad reason.

It sounds as though, in her effort to get revenge, Ms. Bond attacked people with chemicals. Perhaps she does indeed deserve punishment for her form of vigilante justice. But she should be punished for the right reasons. She was trying to get even, not to concoct chemical weapons to sell to Syria.

If the government's main argument is that she deserves to be imprisoned because of her use of chemical weapons, then she should go free.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Verrilli was also laughed at when given the task of arguing the PPACA. Can poisoning someone be deemed a tax?

As an aside, it seems the Pacepa column can no longer be responded to.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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