Bond v united states
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Bond v. United States. Risa Kaufman Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute.

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Bond v. United States

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Bond v united states

Bond v. United States

Risa Kaufman

Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute


Bond v united states

“The question presented by the case is whether the [Chemical Weapons Convention] Implementation Act . . . reaches a purely local crime: an amateur attempt by a jilted wife to injure her husband’s lover, which ended up causing only a minor thumb burn readily treated by rinsing with water.”

  • 134 S. Ct. 2077, 2083 (2014).


Bond v united states

Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act

18 U.S.C. §229(a)(1): Forbids any person knowingly “to develop, produce, otherwise acquire, transfer directly or indirectly, receive, stockpile, retain, own, possess, or use, or threaten to use, any chemical weapon.”


Bond v united states

Questions before the Court:

  • Statutory: does Bond’s “purely local crime” fall outside the scope of the Act?

  • Constitutional: If Bond’s actions are covered by the Act, does the Act violate the 10th Amendment by touching on traditionally local concerns?


Bond v united states

“If the treaty is valid there can be no dispute about the validity of the statute” that implements it “as a necessary and proper means to execute the powers of the Government.”

  • Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416, 432 (1920).


Bond v united states

“[I]t is appropriate to refer to basic principles of federalism embodied in the Constitution to resolve ambiguity in a federal statute.”

  • 134 S. Ct. at 2090.


Bond v united states

“[I]n this curious case, we can insist on a clear indication that Congress meant to reach purely local crimes, before interpreting the statute’s expansive language in a way that intrudes on the police power of the States.”

  • 134 S. Ct. at 2090.


Bond v united states

“We are reluctant to ignore the ordinary meaning of ‘chemical weapon’ when doing so would transform a statute passed to implement the international Convention on Chemical Weapons into one that also makes it a federal offense to poison goldfish.”

  • 134 S. Ct. at 2091.


Bond v united states

Result:

  • Bond’s conviction reversed on statutory grounds

  • Court avoided Constitutional question of whether the Act itself violated federalism limits


Bond v united states

“Since the Act is clear, the real question this case presents is whether the Act is constitutional as applied to petitioner. An unreasoned and citation-less sentence from our opinion in Missouri v. Holland . . . purported to furnish the answer. . . . Petitioner and her amici press us to consider whether there is anything to this ipse dixit. The Constitution’s text and structure show that there is not.”

  • 134 S. Ct. at 2098 (Scalia, J., concurring).


Bond v united states

“Although the parties have not challenged the constitutionality of the particular treaty at issue here, in an appropriate case I believe the Court should address the scope of the Treaty Power as it was originally understood.”

  • 134 S. Ct. at 2103 (Thomas, J. concurring).


Bond score card

Bond score card

  • 9 Justices reverse Bond’s conviction

  • 2 Justices would have limited Congress’ authority to enact implementing legislation (Scalia and Thomas)

  • 3 Justices would have imposed limits on the Treaty Power (Thomas, Scalia, Alito)

  • No Justice wrote separately to defend Missouri v. Holland or an unlimited Treaty Power


Bond v united states

“[T]he global need to prevent chemical warfare does not require the Federal Government to reach into the kitchen cupboard, or to treat a local assault with a chemical irritant as the deployment of a chemical weapon. There is no reason to support that Congress . . . thought otherwise.”

  • 134 S. Ct. at 2093.


Bond v united states

What are the human rights implications of Bond?


Bond v united states

  • “Green light” for human rights treaty ratification?

    (Don’t worry, Court won’t let Congress overstep. . . )


Bond v united states

“Today’s decision in the Bond case removes any fears that the [Disabilities] Convention could ever be used to expand federal authority beyond the limits of the Constitution, undermine state sovereignty, or allow lawsuits to be filed in U.S. courts.”

  • Sen. Robert Mendez, June 2, 2014


Bond v united states

2. Underscores the importance of state and local government.


Bond v united states

Q:Are the Constitutional issues resolved?

A:No, but . . .


Bond v united states

The bottom line:

  • The Court avoided the Constitutional questions of the scope of the Treaty Power and Congress’ authority to implement treaties pursuant to the N&P clause.

  • Nevertheless, the decision is a strong federalism decision which advocates can point to as a “green light” to move forward with ratification of human rights treaties.

  • State and local gov’t plays a key role in implementing U.S. treaty obligations.


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