Supreme Court sets new federalism boundary

June 16, 2011 at 12:27 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday ruled unanimously a defendant can use state sovereignty to challenge a federal conviction when it involves her own rights.

When Carol Anne Bond, of the Philadelphia area, found out her close friend was pregnant by Bond's boyfriend, she began harassing the woman, court records say. The other woman suffered a minor burn when Bond put caustic substances on objects the woman was likely to touch.

Bond was indicted under a federal law that bans "knowing possession or use, for non-peaceful purposes, of a chemical that 'can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans'" -- part of a federal act implementing a chemical weapons treaty ratified by the United States."

A federal judge refused Bond's motion to dismiss the federal charges on the grounds that the statute exceeded Congress' constitutional authority. Bond entered a "conditional" guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal.

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia rejected Bond's 10th Amendment claim, saying she had no standing.

But the Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, said Bond "has standing to challenge the federal statute on grounds that the measure interferes with the powers reserved to states. ... (A lawyer appointed to defend the law, once the administration withdrew) contends that for Bond to argue the national government has interfered with state sovereignty in violation of the 10th Amendment is to assert only a state's legal rights and interests. But in arguing that the government has acted in excess of the authority that federalism defines, Bond seeks to vindicate her own constitutional interests."

Kennedy said, "The statute ... was enacted to comply with a treaty; but (Bond) contends that, at least in the present instance, the treaty cannot be the source of congressional power to regulate or prohibit her conduct."

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