Federalism

A Case That Belonged on Maury, Not in Federal Court

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Last fall I noted a Supreme Court case involving a Pennsylvania microbiologist, Carol Bond, who was convicted of violating the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 by trying (unsuccessfully) to poison an ex-friend who had been impregnated by Bond's husband—a particularly egregious example of federalizing a crime that should be handled under state law. Bond was sentenced to six years in federal prison, three times the maximum penalty she could have received if she had been convicted of aggravated assault under state law. Yesterday the Court heard oral arguments on the question of whether Bond can challenge her prosecution under the 10th Amendment, which says "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." In 2009 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit said Bond does not have standing on her own to mount such a challenge.

The Washington Post reports that "the justices seemed inclined to say that a criminal defendant such as Bond should at least get the chance to argue the statute is unconstitutional." The Obama administration, which initially agreed with the 3rd Circuit that Bond's suit should be dismissed, now says she should have a chance to make her case, although it argues that prosecuting her under a statute aimed at terrorists and rogue states was appropriate. Because of the administration's switcheroo, the Court appointed Lawrence, Kansas, attorney Stephen R. McAllister to defend the 3rd Circuit's decision (PDF).

The Post portrays the 10th Amendment issue (more or less accurately) as a pet cause of conservatives and libertarians. But like the related question of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause, it should be of interest to progressives as well. An overreaching federal government does not limit itself to areas where progressives welcome its meddling, as the controversies over "partial birth" abortion, assisted suicide, gay marriage, and medical marijuana illustrate. Furthermore, if you believe the Justice Department should play a vigorous role in defending constitutional rights (against violations by corrupt judges, for example), you should worry about diverting its resources to run-of-the-mill crimes like assaults arising from love triangles.

The transcript of the oral arguments in Bond v. U.S. is here (PDF). William Anderson and Candice Jackson explored the problems posed by the federalization of crime in a 2004 Reason article.

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  1. It’s only overreach when Republicans do it. Obviously, the only solution is to ban the Republican party.

    1. Close. Ban elections, from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.

      1. They mostly come out at election time. Mostly.

        1. How many times did Newt scream in Aliens? I was wondering whether she had more scream time than actual dialogue.

          1. Well why don’t you put her in charge?

            1. Is there a quote from the movie that actually answers my question?

              1. Game over, man! Game over!

                1. Yeah I guess we can just count you out of everything, Hudson.

  2. You know, I don’t think this is a good 10th Amendment case.

    She fucked with a mailbox.

    That’s been a federal crime for two hundred years.

    The Constitution expressly makes the post office a federal activity.

    As soon as she fucked with the mailbox, everything else she did was connected by a common purpose to this noncontroversial federal crime.

    I think it’s a reach to call what she did a “chemical weapons attack”, but that’s different from the jurisdictional issue.

    1. the whole fucking with a mailbox as a federal crime is a reach of federal power in the first place. It makes no more sense than fucking with your front porch is a federal crime because sometimes the post office delivers mail or packages to your doorstep because they are to big for your mailbox. Or how about fucking with the road that the postman drives on to deliver your mail is a federal crime.

    2. Even if so, that only opens her up to federal charges of “fucking with a mailbox”. The assault charges would still be state.

      1. That’s what I was thinking, too.

        With a few exceptions, I mostly oppose federal criminal statutes. That stuff belongs at the state level. One big issue with a federal criminal code, of course, is that a defendant can face practical double jeopardy without recourse, as case law has firmly established that it’s not legally double jeopardy for some bizarro world reason.

    3. Someday, we mailbox fetishists will have our right to love mailboxes acknowledged as a constitutional right!

      You just watch! Rick Santorum predicted it.

      1. From the creator of the Fleshlight comes –

        the Malebox.

        Be careful if the flag is up.

  3. He cheated,he deserved it-not guilty

    1. Still bitter, rectal? Wait, that’s impossible–no guy would go near you.

      1. Epi, not even STEVE SMITH would fuck you

        1. STEVE SMITH NO RAPE RECTAL!!!!! STEVE ALLERGIC TO PICKLE JUICE AND THE WILLING!!!!! STEVE SCURRY AWAY!!!!

          1. STEVE, I am glad you found Reason friends to role play rape but I need to warn you: Just because Epi says he’s a virgin doesn’t mean all species-ask for a copy of the test

            1. ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME!

              Read my shitty blog!

              1. ME ME ME….,
                YOU YOU YOU BORE ME

    2. Narcissistic personality disorder

      U.S. National Library of Medicine
      National Institutes of Health
      National Center for Biotechnology Information
      U.S. National Library of Medicine
      National Institutes of Health

      Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which people have an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with themselves.
      Causes, incidence, and risk factors

      The causes of this disorder are unknown. An overly sensitive personality and parenting problems may affect the development of this disorder.

      Symptoms

      A person with narcissistic personality disorder may:

      * React to criticism with rage, shame, or humiliation

      * Take advantage of other people to achieve his or her own goals

      * Have excessive feelings of self-importance

      * Exaggerate achievements and talents

      * Be preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love

      * Have unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment

      * Need constant attention and admiration

      * Disregard the feelings of others, and have little ability to feel empathy

      * Have obsessive self-interest

      * Pursue mainly selfish goals

      Link to my blog.

      1. Fuck You! That’s my President your talking about.

    3. Who’s this “he” you’re talking about?

  4. The most egregious part is that Haynes attempted to deal with this in the right jurisdiction, local criminal court, and got brushed off. Bond is a dangerous lunatic that deserves to be behind bars, state or Federal*.

    * Se Fluffy’s comment above.

  5. Furthermore, if you believe the Justice Department should play a vigorous role in defending constitutional rights (against violations by corrupt judges, for example), you should worry about diverting its resources to run-of-the-mill crimes like assaults arising from love triangles the tenth amendment too.

    FTFY

  6. An overreaching federal government does not limit itself to areas where progressives welcome its meddling, as the controversies over “partial birth” abortion, assisted suicide, gay marriage, and medical marijuana illustrate.

    Funny, I missed the progressive outcry over Raich.

  7. What I want to know is how a private citizen can be charged under an arms control treaty.

    1. The treaty required all ratifying nations to enact enabling statutes. She wasn’t charged under the treaty, she was charged under the statutes enacted to put the treaty into force.

  8. Am I wrong in thinking that a big part of the problem here is that the maximum state punishment for intentionally attempting to poison a human being to death is only two years? Really? How was Bond charged with aggravated assault and not attempted murder?

  9. Infectious agents have a clear implication on interstate everything.

  10. Every aspect of this story makes me wet.

  11. The left doesn’t have any principle. Of course they deride the potential use of the commerce clause to enact conservative policies, but in general they abhor the idea of striking down legislation on grounds of exceeding authority; they want NO limits to federal authority! In their eyes, the only limit to Congressional policy should be a normative judgement on where and when to wield that power. It’s a mentality of, “if a power can be used for good, it MUST be given to the Feds; the fact that it can also be used for evil is irrelevant since it won’t be as we won’t abuse it. [wink]”

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