Antonin Scalia

Supreme Court Rules 9-0 Against Obama Administration's 'Boundless' Interpretation of Chemical Weapons Law

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Credit: WhiteHouse.gov

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously today against the Obama administration in a major case testing the reach of federal power.

At issue in Bond v. United States was the conviction of Carol Anne Bond, a Pennsylvania woman sentenced to six years in federal prison under the Chemical Weapons Implementation Act after she smeared two toxic substances on the door knob and car door of a woman who had been carrying on an affair with Bond's husband. According to Bond, the federal government exceeded its enumerated powers by making a federal crime out of her purely local offense. Today, the Supreme Court ruled in Bond's favor.

The Obama administration's "boundless" interpretation of the chemical weapons law, declared the opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts, "would transform the statute from one whose core concerns are acts of war, assassination, and terrorism into a massive federal anti-poisoning regime that reaches the simplest of assaults."

Joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, Roberts found that the federal law simply had no application to "an amateur attempt by a jilted wife to injure her husband's lover, which ended up causing only a minor thumb burn readily treated by rinsing with water." The power to prosecute such acts rests entirely in the hands of the states, the Court concluded. "There is no reason to think the sovereign nations that ratified the [Chemical Weapons] Convention were interested in anything like Bond's common law assault."

Writing separately, Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito concurred in the view that Bond's conviction should be overturned, but argued that Roberts' narrow ruling did not go far enough. In contrast to Roberts, these three justices argued that the chemical weapons law did cover Bond's conduct, and therefore the law should be struck down on constitutional grounds. "As sweeping and unsettling as the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998 may be, it is clear beyond doubt that it covers what Bond did," wrote Justice Scalia. "So we are forced to decide—there is no way around it—whether the Act's application to what Bond did was constitutional. I would hold that it was not."

The opinion in Bond. v. United States is available here.

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  1. Is it me or does the Supreme Court’s work at restraining executive or legislative power grabs seem scattershot?

    1. 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, except insofar as such reservation would make the Chief Justice haz a sadz.

  2. exceeded its enumerated powers by making a federal crime out of her purely local offense. Today, the Supreme Court ruled in Bond’s favor.

    So, in the end, prosecuting the act of wiping icky stuff on a doorknob is outside enumerated powers. But everything, and I mean everything else… A-OK.

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      1. Fuck off, spamming cunt.

  3. Actually, while the Obama administration pursued the case up to SCOTUS, Bond was initially charged by Patrick Meehan, who at the time was a US attorney appointed by W. Bush and is currently a GOP congressman.

    1. And yet, Obama supporters get infuriated when I point out how Obama is merely a continuation of Bush’s nastiest policies.

      1. W. Was far more liberal than those filthy progressives will ever admit.

        God Dman Obama

    2. *CROWD GASP*

      Oh wait, I didn’t vote for Bush either.

      Never mind.

    3. Bush farted on an elevator once, so if Obama wants to rape a busload of orphans with a razor-tipped dilo, that’s totally cool.

      1. It’s not cool. But it’s really Bush’s fault, don’t you know.

      2. That’s the most concise statement of the Progtard platform I’ve ever read.

  4. Writing separately, Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito concurred in the view that Bond’s conviction should be overturned, but argued that Roberts’ narrow ruling did not go far enough. In contrast to Roberts, these three justices argued that the chemical weapons law did cover Bond’s conduct, and therefore the law should be struck down on constitutional grounds.

    This is the correct answer. Roberts would allow Congress to jail jaywalkers if the law’s wording were sufficient.

  5. the federal government exceeded its enumerated powers by making a federal crime out of her purely local offense.

    See also: kidnapping, car-jacking, drug-laws, Mann Act, Prohibition, etc.

    But, whew… no wide application of the chemical weapons act. Let freedom ring.

    1. Let freedom ring.

      Like this?

      1. That’s how you go blind, dude.

  6. To me, the only interesting aspect of this case (which otherwise is a colossal waste of taxpayer monies) is that it was a unanimous decision. Even given the absurdity of the feral (sic) charge, I’d have expected at least one justice — and I could make a case for any political tilt — to have found validity in the administration’s arrogation. Do not misunderstand: I give The Supremes no credit here. I just find it interesting that there was not one Stevensian moment even in this slam-dunk.

  7. “As sweeping and unsettling as the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998 may be, it is clear beyond doubt that it covers what Bond did,” wrote Justice Scalia. “So we are forced to decide?there is no way around it?whether the Act’s application to what Bond did was constitutional. I would hold that it was not.”

    Missed a great opportunity to work in a “There’s no sugarcoating it”, Sam.

  8. Even when they get it right, they get it wrong.

    Only Scalia, Thomas and Alito against the idea of increasing the Fed’s scope by treaty? I certainly expect more of Kennedy and Roberts didn’t need to do a nice safe political dance with this one given that it was still a 0-9 ruling.

    1. Even when they get it right, they get it wrong.

      The justice’s statement about ‘simplest of assaults’ seemed oddly retarded to me as well. Like the court(s) and federal aspects of law only rarely, if ever, get involved with people who didn’t actually do dick.

    2. Good point, and in fact this is the most important part of this ruling. These three justices explicitly noted that a treaty cannot supersede the Constitution. I think that’s implicit in the wording of the Constitution, but there are those (many in the libertarian and conservative ranks) who seem to think that an arms-control treaty would somehow supersede our 2nd Amendment rights. It couldn’t.

    3. A judge who think that a judgment is against the law of Congress (or a self-executing treaty) should not rule about the constitutionality of this law (or treaty). It would be obiter dictum.

  9. Always remember, any opinion authored by Roberts takes into account his fear of being ostracized by the Beltway social scene.

  10. In other news growing a weed on your own property for personal use is still considered an act of interstate commerce for federal purposes.

  11. “So we are forced to decide?there is no way around it?whether the Act’s application to what Bond did was constitutional.”

    Oh heavens no! Don’t actually test the constitutionality of a federal law! Anything but that!!!

  12. Whenever referring to the current chief justice, please use the words “bush family factotum.” Thank you.

    1. Yes, of course.

      That’s why the SCOTUS ruled against Obamacare.

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