Friday, June 17, 2011

SCOTUS Decision in Bond v. United States

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Bond v. United States (09-1227), a case covered earlier here and here. Justice Kennedy’s opinion begins:

This case presents the question whether a person indicted for violating a federal statute has standing to challenge its validity on grounds that, by enacting it, Congress exceeded its powers under the Constitution, thus intruding upon the sovereignty and authority of the States.

The indicted defendant, petitioner here, sought to argue the invalidity of the statute. She relied on the Tenth Amendment, and, by extension, on the premise that Congress exceeded its powers by enacting it in contravention of basic federalism principles. The statute, 18 U. S. C. §229, was enacted to comply with a treaty; but petitioner contends that, at least in the present instance, the treaty cannot be the source of congressional power to regulate or prohibit her conduct.

The Court of Appeals held that because a State was not a party to the federal criminal proceeding, petitioner had no standing to challenge the statute as an infringement upon the powers reserved to the States. Having concluded that petitioner does have standing to challenge the federal statute on these grounds, this Court now reverses that determination. The merits of petitioner’s challenge to the statute’s validity are to be considered, in the first instance, by the Court of Appeals on remand and are not addressed in this opinion.

Justice Ginsburg writes a concurring opinion (joined by Justice Breyer) that begins:

I join the Court’s opinion and write separately to make the following observation. Bond, like any other defendant, has a personal right not to be convicted under a constitutionally invalid law.


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