Bench Memos

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Ruling in Bond v. United States


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.

Bond v. United States presented the important question whether there are any structural limits on Congress’s power to implement a valid treaty. But in its ruling today the Court found it unnecessary to reach this question. Instead—I’m relying largely on the syllabus of the opinion, as I haven’t yet had time to read the case in full—the Chief Justice relied on principles of federalism to read the statute so that it didn’t cover Bond’s conduct. The Chief was joined by Kennedy and the four liberals. 

Scalia, Thomas, and Alito concurred in the judgment; they would have found unconstitutional the statute’s application to Bond.


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