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Bond v. United States: Poisoning, Chemical Weapons and Federalism

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD | Last updated on

Let's say you're a microbiologist that works at a chemical company and you find out your best friend is pregnant with your husband's child. What would you do?

If you're Bond ... Carol Bond, then obviously, you try to poison your best friend. But in a turn of events that's more Austin Powers, than 007, the mistress/best friend only winds up suffering a burn to her thumb.

To make things more complicated, rather than being an open and shut state criminal case, this appeal involves issues of treaty obligations and federalism.

Bond v. United States -- Background

Bond pleaded guilty (conditionally) to attempted poisoning under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998 "(Act"), preserving her right to appeal on Tenth Amendment grounds. In Bond I, the Third Circuit held that she did not have standing to challenge the federal statute on federalism grounds, and the Supreme Court disagreed, remanding the case back to the Third Circuit.

On remand, the Third Circuit had to consider whether the Act is valid and "necessary and proper" to carry out the President's Treaty Power. The Third Circuit held that:

because the Convention is an international agreement with a subject matter that lies at the core of the Treaty Power and because Holland instructs that "there can be no dispute about the validity of [a] statute" that implements a valid treaty ... we will affirm Bond's conviction.

Now, the Supreme Court will hear this case ... again.

In Bond II, the Supreme Court must determine two issues: (1) whether constraints on federal authority also limit Congress' ability to enact legislation that exceeds the scope of a treaty; and (2) whether the Act should not apply to ordinary poison cases that local law can adequately address.

The outcome of this case can potentially, have the effect of overruling the Court's Holland decision. Perhaps on this second go-around, the Supreme Court can add some finality to this case, without departing from long-standing precedent.

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