Bond v. United States

Following is the case brief for Bond v. United States, 134 S. Ct. 2077 (2014)

Case Summary of Bond v. United States:

  • Petitioner Bond used chemicals to get revenge on her husband’s lover.  She was prosecuted in federal court for violations of the Chemical Weapons Implementation Act, an Act implementing a global treaty on chemical weapons.
  • On appeal, Bond argued that the chemical weapons charges should be dropped because the State has province over assault-type crimes, citing the Tenth Amendment. The Court of Appeals held that Bond lacked standing to assert a Tenth Amendment claim. The Supreme Court, however, reversed that determination.
  • On rehearing, the Court of Appeals rejected Bond’s Tenth Amendment claim.
  • The Supreme Court reversed and remanded.  The Court did not need to address the Tenth Amendment claim because it held that the Act did not cover Bond’s conduct.

Bond v. United States Case Brief

Statement of the Facts:

Carole Ann Bond’s husband had an affair with her friend, Myrlinda Hanes.  Hanes became pregnant by Bond’s husband.  To get revenge, Bond obtained chemicals from her employer and the internet with the intent to cause Hanes discomfort.  On many occasions, Bond surreptitiously went to Hanes’s home and placed chemicals on door knobs, car handles and Hanes’s mailbox.  Hanes was able to avoid injury except for a burn on her thumb.

Local authorities did not investigate Hanes’s complaints about the chemicals with any vigor, yet Bond’s theft of a letter from Hanes’s mailbox brought in federal authorities.  Federal prosecutors charged Bond with mail theft and, surprisingly, violations of the Chemical Weapons Implementation Act, which forbids any person from possessing or using any chemical weapon.  The chemicals that Bond used were listed as “toxic chemicals” under the Act.

Procedural History:

  • Bond moved to dismiss the chemical weapons charges.  The District Court denied the motion.  Bond then entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving her right to appeal.  She was sentenced to six years in prison.
  • On appeal, Bond challenged the chemical weapons charges based on the Tenth Amendment.  The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, however, held that Bond lacked standing to assert a Tenth Amendment claim.  The Supreme Court reversed and remanded.  It held that an individual, not just a State, could assert a Tenth Amendment claim.
  • On remand, the Third Circuit rejected Bond’s Tenth Amendment challenge and found that the Act covers her conduct.
  • The Supreme Court again granted certiorari.

Issue and Holding:

Does the Chemical Weapons Implementation Act reach a local crime such as a person using chemicals in an attempt to harm her husband’s lover?  No.

Judgment:

The judgment of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals is reversed and remanded.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

Principles of federalism dictate that local criminal activity is generally prosecuted by the States, unless Congress has made clear that the federal law should have such reach.

Reasoning:

Because the Court typically avoids constitutional questions if there is another ground upon which to decide a case, the Court began its analysis with whether the Chemical Weapons Implementation Act covers Bond’s conduct.  The Court found that it did not.

The Chemical Weapons Implementation Act does not clearly indicate that it was meant to cover Bond’s actions.  The Act is meant to address chemical weapons used for purposes of terrorism, assassination, and war; not for purely personal purposes of getting revenge on your husband’s lover.  Pennsylvania’s criminal code is sufficient to prosecute the assault committed by Bond.  Therefore, the Act does not cover Bond’s conduct.  Indeed, the global desire to stop chemical warfare does require the Federal Government to reach into the kitchen cupboard.

Concurring Opinion (Scalia):

It is beyond doubt that the Chemical Weapons Implementation Act covers Bond’s conduct. However, the fact that the Act covers Bond’s conduct renders the Act unconstitutional as applied to her.

Concurring Opinion (Thomas):

The United States treaty power cannot be used to regulate affairs that are purely domestic, such as banning chemical weapons.  Doing so would destroy the distinction under the Constitution between domestic and foreign powers.

Concurring Opinion (Alito):

With little discussion, Justice Alito opined that the treaty that Congress implemented by passing the Act exceeded the treaty power of the U.S. because it obligates the U.S. to enact legislation criminalizing acts such as Bond’s conduct.

Significance:

Bond v. United States presents a helpful discussion of how principles of federalism impact an international treaty implemented by Congress.  It also received some press coverage because of the soap-opera-type facts in the case.  What is striking about the case, however, is the concurring justices’ attack on the treaty and the Act implementing it.  While the majority unremarkably interprets the Act based on its language and intent — i.e., that a treaty meant to combat chemical warfare does not logically apply to a scorned woman seeking revenge on her husband’s mistress — Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito strain mightily to find reasons why the Act is unconstitutional.

Student Resources:

https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/572/12-158/opinion3.html

https://www.oyez.org/cases/2013/12-158

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/19/us/19bar.html

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