Tuesday, June 3, 2014

US Supreme Court Declines to Address Scope of Treaty Power in Bond

The United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Bond v United States yesterday, a closely watched case involving the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC materials) that potentially could have restricted the federal government's treaty powers. 

Carol Bond stole a toxic chemical substance at work and used it to harm  her husband's lover. She was charged criminally under a federal statute that implements the CWC in US law. She defended in part on the grounds that the implementing statute exceeds Congress' powers in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution because it intruded into areas of criminal law traditionally regulated by the states, not the federal government.

The Supreme Court refused to reach the constitutional issue regarding the scope of Congress' treaty power, employing the doctrine known as avoidance of constitutional questions.  Instead, the Court focused on the language of the implementing statute and found that Congress did not intend to reach purely local crimes such as Bond's under that statute.

The Court's decision is good news for those who were concerned that the Court would take this opportunity to revisit Missouri v Holland and narrow the understanding of the federal government's treaty powers.



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Too kind, in my view. The Supreme Court has left enforcement of this essential treaty to no one. Israel is not yet a party, and Syria and Russia can now withdraw tomorrow. They should have addressed Holland and treaty ambiguity head on. Dodgeball can be a dangerous game.

Posted by: Thomas Welch | Jun 4, 2014 10:07:57 AM

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