Oral Argument in Bond v. United States

by Ed Whelan

The Supreme Court heard oral argument today in Bond v. United States, which presents the important question whether there are any structural limits on Congress’s power to implement a valid treaty. The transcript, which makes for an interesting read, is here, and Lyle Denniston’s recap of the argument is here.

The case arises in a soap-opera setting: When Carol Anne Bond discovered that her husband had impregnated her best friend, Myrlinda Haynes, she set out to punish Haynes by spreading irritant chemicals on surfaces that she expected Haynes to touch—and somehow ended up being prosecuted by federal authorities for violation of the federal statute (the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998) that Congress enacted to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention.

For further background on the case, I’ll recommend George Will’s recent column as well as the briefs and commentary available at SCOTUSblog’s case page.

Subject to the caveat that one should be wary of trying to infer a case’s resolution from the oral argument, I agree with the general assessment that the argument seems to augur well for Bond’s challenge. Perhaps most encouraging was Justice Breyer’s skepticism of the government’s argument.