TREATY POWER

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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