Bond v. United States 

564 U.S. 211 (2011)

(Federalism)

 
 

Context

Carol Bond’s husband had an affair resulting in conceiving a child with his mistress. Infuriated, Bond stole chemicals from the laboratory in which she worked and smeared it along frequently-touched places in her husband’s mistress house. Bond was charged under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998 and for committing mail fraud. The federal Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998 was designed to charge threats to the federal government, like terrorists, and that Bond should have been charged under a state law. Her attorneys argued that she should have been tried in state court and that charging their client with a treaty violated the Tenth Amendment. The Supreme Court agreed with her lawyers, that Bond could contest the law as it was a power left for the states. Justice Kennedy, writing for the court, asserted that an individual cannot be limited in questioning the federalism behind a statute that they are being charged with, as they have a right to not be convicted under an unconstitutional law. The Supreme Court remanded the case to a lower court to determine whether the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998 still applies. The Third Circuit Court then upheld the treaty through precedent set in an earlier case, Missouri v. Holland (1920) that said if the treaty was valid, it could be applied.

Bond v. United States

Bond v. United States

Bond v. United States


How the Justices Voted

Majority: Kennedy, joined by unanimous

Concurrence: Ginsburg, joined by Breyer

Facts:

This case arises from a bitter personal dispute, leading to the criminal acts charged here. Petitioner Carol Anne Bond lived outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After discovering that her close friend was pregnant and that the father was Bond's husband, Bond sought revenge. Bond subjected the woman to a campaign of harassing telephone calls and letters, acts that resulted in a criminal conviction on a minor state charge. Bond persisted in her hostile acts, placing caustic substances on objects the woman was likely to touch, including her mailbox, car door handle, and front doorknob. Bond's victim suffered a minor burn on her hand and contacted federal investigators, who identified Bond as the perpetrator.

Issue:

Whether a person indicted for violating a federal statute has standing to challenge its validity on grounds that, by enacting it, Congress exceeded its powers under the Constitution, thus intruding upon the sovereignty and authority of the States.

The indicted defendant, petitioner here, sought to argue the invalidity of the statute. She relied on the Tenth Amendment, and, by extension, on the premise that Congress exceeded its powers by enacting it in contravention of basic federalism principles. The statute was enacted to comply with a treaty; but petitioner contends that, at least in the present instance, the treaty cannot be the source of congressional power to regulate or prohibit her conduct.

Reasoning:

II

One who seeks to initiate or continue proceedings in federal court must demonstrate, among other requirements, both standing to obtain the relief requested and, in addition, an “ongoing interest in the dispute” on the part of the opposing party that is sufficient to establish “concrete adverseness.” When those conditions are met, Article III does not restrict the opposing party's ability to object to relief being sought at its expense. The requirement of Article III standing thus had no bearing upon Bond's capacity to assert defenses in the District Court. As for Bond's standing to appeal, it is clear Article III's prerequisites are met. Bond's challenge to her conviction and sentence “satisfies the case-or-controversy requirement, because the incarceration . . . constitutes a concrete injury, caused by the conviction and redressable by invalidation of the conviction.”

III

In amicus' view, to argue that the National Government has interfered with state sovereignty in violation of the Tenth Amendment is to assert the legal rights and interests of States and States alone. That, however, is not so. As explained below, Bond seeks to vindicate her own constitutional interests. The individual, in a proper case, can assert injury from governmental action taken in excess of the authority that federalism defines. Her rights in this regard do not belong to a State.

A

The federal system rests on what might at first seem a counterintuitive insight, that “freedom is enhanced by the creation of two governments, not one.” The Framers concluded that allocation of powers between the National Government and the States enhances freedom, first by protecting the integrity of the governments themselves, and second by protecting the people, from whom all governmental powers are derived.

The allocation of powers in our federal system preserves the integrity, dignity, and residual sovereignty of the States. The federal balance is, in part, an end in itself, to ensure that States function as political entities in their own right.

 The federal structure allows local policies “more sensitive to the diverse needs of a heterogeneous society,” permits “innovation and experimentation,” enables greater citizen “involvement in democratic processes,” and makes government “more responsive by putting the States in competition for a mobile citizenry.” Federalism secures the freedom of the individual. It allows States to respond, through the enactment of positive law, to the initiative of those who seek a voice in shaping the destiny of their own times without having to rely solely upon the political processes that control a remote central power. True, of course, these objects cannot be vindicated by the Judiciary in the absence of a proper case or controversy; but the individual liberty secured by federalism is not simply derivative of the rights of the States.

Federalism also protects the liberty of all persons within a State by ensuring that laws enacted in excess of delegated governmental power cannot direct or control their actions. By denying any one government complete jurisdiction over all the concerns of public life, federalism protects the liberty of the individual from arbitrary power. When government acts in excess of its lawful powers, that liberty is at stake.

The limitations that federalism entails are not therefore a matter of rights belonging only to the States. States are not the sole intended beneficiaries of federalism. An individual has a direct interest in objecting to laws that upset the constitutional balance between the National Government and the States when the enforcement of those laws causes injury that is concrete, particular, and redressable. Fidelity to principles of federalism is not for the States alone to vindicate.

Just as it is appropriate for an individual, in a proper case, to invoke separation-of-powers or checks-and-balances constraints, so too may a litigant, in a proper case, challenge a law as enacted in contravention of constitutional principles of federalism. That claim need not depend on the vicarious assertion of a State's constitutional interests, even if a State's constitutional interests are also implicated.

B

The public policy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, enacted in its capacity as sovereign, has been displaced by that of the National Government. The law to which petitioner is subject, the prosecution she seeks to counter, and the punishment she must face might not have come about if the matter were left for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to decide. Indeed, petitioner argues that under Pennsylvania law the expected maximum term of imprisonment she could have received for the same conduct was barely more than a third of her federal sentence.

There is no basis to support the Government's proposed distinction between different federalism arguments for purposes of prudential standing rules. The principles of limited national powers and state sovereignty are intertwined. While neither originates in the Tenth Amendment, both are expressed by it. Impermissible interference with state sovereignty is not within the enumerated powers of the National Government, and action that exceeds the National Government's enumerated powers undermines the sovereign interests of States. The unconstitutional action can cause concomitant injury to persons in individual cases.

An individual who challenges federal action on these grounds is, of course, subject to the Article III requirements, as well as prudential rules, applicable to all litigants and claims. Individuals have “no standing to complain simply that their Government is violating the law.” It is not enough that a litigant “suffers in some indefinite way in common with people generally.” If, in connection with the claim being asserted, a litigant who commences suit fails to show actual or imminent harm that is concrete and particular, fairly traceable to the conduct complained of, and likely to be redressed by a favorable decision, the Federal Judiciary cannot hear the claim. These requirements must be satisfied before an individual may assert a constitutional claim; and in some instances, the result may be that a State is the only entity capable of demonstrating the requisite injury.

In this case, however, where the litigant is a party to an otherwise justiciable case or controversy, she is not forbidden to object that her injury results from disregard of the federal structure of our Government.

The ultimate issue of the statute's validity turns in part on whether the law can be deemed “necessary and proper for carrying into Execution” the President's Article II, § 2, Treaty Power. This Court expresses no view on the merits of that argument.

Holding:

There is no basis in precedent or principle to deny petitioner's standing to raise her claims.

 
 

Key Takeaway

Individuals, not just states, may have standing to raise Tenth Amendment challenges to a federal law. The limits of federalism aren’t only between states and the federal government.


Court Syllabus:

When petitioner Bond discovered that her close friend was pregnant by Bond's husband, she began harassing the woman. The woman suffered a minor burn after Bond put caustic substances on objects the woman was likely to touch. Bond was indicted for violating 18 U.S.C. § 229, which forbids knowing possession or use, for nonpeaceful purposes, of a chemical that “can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans,” and which is part of a federal Act implementing a chemical weapons treaty ratified by the United States. The District Court denied Bond's motion to dismiss the § 229 charges on the ground that the statute exceeded Congress' constitutional authority to enact. She entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal the ruling on the statute's validity. She did just that, renewing her Tenth Amendment claim. The Third Circuit, however, accepted the Government's position that she lacked standing. The Government has since changed its view on Bond's standing.

Held: Bond has standing to challenge the federal statute on grounds that the measure interferes with the powers reserved to States.

(a) The Third Circuit relied on a single sentence in Tennessee Elec. Power Co. v. TVA

(1) The Court has disapproved of Tennessee Electric as authoritative for purposes of Article III's case-or-controversy requirement. Here, Article III's standing requirement had no bearing on Bond's capacity to assert defenses in the District Court. And Article III's prerequisites are met with regard to her standing to appeal.

(2) Tennessee Electric is also irrelevant with respect to prudential standing rules. There, the Court declined to reach the merits where private power companies sought to enjoin the federally chartered Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) from producing and selling electric power, claiming that the statute creating the TVA exceeded the National Government's powers in violation of the Tenth Amendment. In doing so, the Court repeatedly stated that the problem with the power companies' suit was a lack of “standing” or a “cause of action,” treating those concepts as interchangeable. The question whether a plaintiff states a claim for relief typically “goes to the merits” of a case, however, not to the dispute's justiciability, and conflation of the two concepts can cause confusion. This happened with Tennessee Electric's Tenth Amendment discussion. The statement on which the Third Circuit relied here should be read to refer to the absence of a cause of action for injury caused by economic competition. To the extent the statement might instead be read to suggest a private party does not have standing to raise a Tenth Amendment issue, it is inconsistent with this Court's later precedents and should be deemed neither controlling nor instructive on the issue of standing as that term is now defined and applied.

(b) Amicus, appointed to defend the judgment, contends that for Bond to argue the National Government has interfered with state sovereignty in violation of the Tenth 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. 

(1) Federalism has more than one dynamic. In allocating powers between the States and National Government, federalism “‘secures to citizens the liberties that derive from the diffusion of sovereign power.'  It enables States to enact positive law in response to the initiative of those who seek a voice in shaping the destiny of their own times, and it protects the liberty of all persons within a State by ensuring that law enacted in excess of delegated governmental power cannot direct or control their actions. Federalism's limitations are not therefore a matter of rights belonging only to the States. In a proper case, a litigant may challenge a law as enacted in contravention of federalism, just as injured individuals may challenge actions that transgress, e.g., separation-of-powers limitations. The claim need not depend on the vicarious assertion of a State's constitutional interests, even if those interests are also implicated.

(2) The Government errs in contending that Bond should be permitted to assert only that Congress could not enact the challenged statute under its enumerated powers but that standing should be denied if she argues that the statute interferes with state sovereignty. Here, Bond asserts that the public policy of Pennsylvania, enacted in its capacity as sovereign, has been displaced by that of the National Government. The law to which she is subject, the prosecution she seeks to counter, and the punishment she must face might not have come about had the matter been left for Pennsylvania to decide. There is no support for the Government's proposed distinction between different federalism arguments for purposes of prudential standing rules. The principles of limited national powers and state sovereignty are intertwined. Impermissible interference with state sovereignty is not within the National Government's enumerated powers, and action exceeding the National Government's enumerated powers undermines the States' sovereign interests. Individuals seeking to challenge such measures are subject to Article III and prudential standing rules applicable to all litigants and claims, but here, where the litigant is a party to an otherwise justiciable case or controversy, she is not forbidden to object that her injury results from disregard of the federal structure of the Government.

(c) The Court expresses no view on the merits of Bond's challenge to the statute's validity.