U.S. Supreme Court

Love triangle spurs SCOTUS arguments on reaches of congressional power


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The U.S. Supreme Court considered Congress’ authority to pass laws implementing treaties on Tuesday in a case that stems from a love triangle.

News coverage of oral arguments highlights a possible win for Carol Bond, who is challenging Congress’ authority to enact a chemical weapons law that was used to prosecute her for trying to harm her husband’s mistress. The law was passed to carry out a treaty designed to limit the spread of chemical weapons. The New York Times, SCOTUSblog, the Washington Postand the National Law Journal have stories.

Carol Bond faced a federal prosecution for spreading harmful chemicals on a mailbox, car and other surfaces that would likely be touched by the mistress, who became pregnant as a result of the affair. The romantic rival suffered a chemical burn on her thumb.

Bond reserved her right to challenge the law when she pleaded guilty. The issue is whether Congress can legislate in areas that are traditionally left to the states—in this case, the police power—when passing a law to carry out a treaty.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. supported the law, saying that the framers gave the federal government exclusive control over treaties so as to “knit the nation together as one and allow it to be fully sovereign in the conduct of foreign affairs.” He warned against a ruling that finds Bond’s conduct was outside the scope of the law because her conduct was not “war-like,” according to the NLJ account.

The issue of which chemicals are “warlike” is an issue in negotiations with Syria, Verrilli said, and a ruling on the issue could disrupt “very sensitive negotiations.”

According to the Post, Bond has completed her prison term and has reunited with her husband.

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