NECESSARY AND PROPER CLAUSE

Bond v. United States

Issues: 

Do the Commerce and Necessary and Proper Clauses, read in connection with the treaty power, allow a statute that was enacted by Congress to enforce a treaty to serve as a valid basis for prosecuting a criminal defendant in Federal District Court?

Petitioner Carol Anne Bond was arrested in 2007 for attempts to poison a romantic rival, which culminated in a minor burn to the rival’s thumb. A federal district court sentenced Bond to six years in prison and five years of supervised release, and ordered her to pay a fine and make restitution, under the authority of the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act. Congress passed that statute to implement an international arms-control agreement to prohibit chemical warfare. Bond challenged her conviction, claiming the statute’s application to her domestic conduct exceeded Congress’ limited and enumerated powers. In reviewing her challenge, the Third Circuit held that Congress’ power to implement treaties validated the statute and Bond’s conviction. The Supreme Court’s ruling in this case will affect not only how broadly federal criminal statutes apply, but also the scope of Congress’ authority to implement treaties.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 
  1. Whether the Constitution’s structural limits on federal authority impose any constraints on the scope of Congress’ authority to enact legislation to implement a valid treaty, at least in circumstances where the federal statute, as applied, goes far beyond the scope of the treaty, intrudes on traditional state prerogatives, and is concededly unnecessary to satisfy the government’s treaty obligations; and
  2. whether the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act, 18 U.S.C. § 229, can be interpreted not to reach ordinary poisoning cases, which have been adequately handled by state and local authorities since the Framing, in order to avoid the difficult constitutional questions involving the scope of and continuing vitality of this Court’s decision in Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416 (1920).

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United States v. Kebodeaux

While serving in the Air Force in 1999, a military tribunal convicted twenty-one-year-old Anthony Kebodeaux of statutory rape for having consensual sex with a fifteen-year-old girl.  Following a three-month sentence and bad-conduct discharge, Kebodeaux moved to Texas, where he became subject to strict lifetime registration requirements that include annual in-person registration and registration updates upon intrastate movement.  Seven years later, in 2006, Congress enacted the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”), which imposes registration requirements on sex offenders convicted under state or federal law, and additionally prescribes penalties for failure to register. After failing to update his registration following an intrastate move in 2008, Kebodeaux was convicted under SORNA in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas and sentenced to one year and one day in prison, plus five years of supervised release. Kebodeaux appealed this conviction to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, arguing that Congress did not have jurisdiction to criminalize his intrastate movements. The Fifth Circuit, sitting en banc, reversed the District Court’s conviction, holding that as applied to Kebodeaux, SORNA’s registration requirements were unconstitutional as exceeding Congress’s Article I powers. On appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States argues that SORNA did not constitute overreaching by the federal government because Kebodeaux was consistently subject to federal jurisdiction, having committed a federal offense under military law. In response, Kebodeaux contends that his release from prison pre-SORNA was unconditional, meaning that he is bound only by state registration requirements and any reassertion of federal jurisdiction over him through SORNA would be unconstitutional.  This case will also examine the balance between the benefits of uniformity in a comprehensive registration system against considerations of state sovereignty.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 

1. Whether the court of appeals erred in conducting its constitutional analysis on the premise that respondent was not under a federal registration obligation until SORNA was enacted, when pre-SORNA federal law obligated him to register as a sex offender.

2. Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that Congress lacks the Article I authority to provide for criminal penalties under 18 U.S.C. 2250(a)(2)(A), as applied to a person who was convicted of a sex offense under federal law and completed his criminal sentence before SORNA was enacted.

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