Brief Fact Summary.
Defendant was charged under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998 for possessing and using a chemical to cause her personal foe to develop an uncomfortable rash.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998 was unconstitutionally unclear.
Perhaps the clearest example of traditional state authority is the punishment of local criminal activity.View Full Point of Law
Congress enacted the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998 (“Act”) to fulfill the United States’ obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Act forbid the production, acquisition, transfer, use, etc. of any chemical weapon.
Carol Anne Bond, the defendant, found out that her friend Myrlinda Haynes was pregnant with her, Bond’s, husband’s child. Seeking revenge, Bond stole toxic chemicals to cause Hayes to develop a rash. Bond was charged under the Act.
Was the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998 constitutional?
No, the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998 was not constitutional.
Justice Frankfurter argued that the claim in this case implicated all of the characteristics that make Guarantee Clause cases non-justiciable.
Justice Scalia argued that the Act was clear, and that Bond violated it. However, he argued that neither the Necessary and Proper Clause, nor Congress’ Article I, § 8 powers, gave Congress the power to implement treaties, which is what it did through the Act. The Necessary and Proper Clause gave Congress the power to make all laws that were necessary and proper for carrying out other constintutional powers, such as the President’s Article II, § 2 power to make treaties. Reading these two provisions together, Justice Scalia argued, Congress only had the power to pass laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the power to make treaties, not implement them. He argued that the Supreme Court created a loophole to give Congress more treaty power in Missouri v. Holland.
Justice Thomas argued that the treaty power was limited to matters of internaitonal intercourse, and did not extend into purely domestic matters.
Justice Alito emphasized that the Act was not necessary and proper to help execute the treaty power, and Congress would have had to rely on a different ennumerated Constitutional power to enact it.
The Act was unconstitutionally unclear, according to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found that the defendant’s use of a chemical to cause a minor thumb injury in a personal feud was not a use of a “chemical weapon” in the natural meaning of the term. The Act was not sufficiently clear, because the definition of “chemical weapon” could reach beyond the probably intended scope of the Act. The Supreme Court also found that the laws of Pennsylvania were sufficient to prosecute Bond.