Bajan case in US Supreme Court

Tony Best,

Added 10 December 2013

carolannbond

A Bajan in a love triangle will have the satisfaction of helping to write a major chapter in United States legal history. Carol Bond, a microbiologist from Barbados who worked for a chemical manufacturer in Pennsylvania, has asked the United States Supreme Court to settle once and for all a key constitutional question which federal jurists have been trying to resolve since the 1920s. The dispute: does the 10th Amendment to the United States constitution allow Congress to enlarge its powers by approving an international treaty whose provisions then become local law? Just last month the Supreme Court in Washington heard evidence in the case but has reserved its judgment. In the meantime, legal luminaries across the nation and commentators have joined the debate, with some backing the Barbadian and others opposing her. Backers are insisting the United States Justice Department went too far by making a federal case out of a simple matter that should have been settled in a Pennsylvania state court. Incidentally, the public official who has considerable interest in the case is United States Attorney General Eric Holder, who like Bond, has strong Barbadian roots. Both his mother and father traced their lineage to Barbados. “This case is definitely a blockbuster,” said Georgetown University law professor Nicholas Rosenkranz about the possible outcome of an issue that was heard twice by the nation’s top court. “It raises a question of whether a treaty can increase the legislative power of Congress,” said Rosenkranz. The history of the case, Carol Anne Bond vs United States, can be traced to the jealous rage of the Barbadian after she discovered that her husband had impregnated her best friend, Myrlinda Haynes. The wife became so angry that she allegedly threatened Haynes, vowing: “I am going to make your life a living hell.” She allegedly stole her husband’s lover’s mail; reportedly put toxic chemicals in the woman’s car; and sprayed some of it on the door-knob of her home and the car handles. None of which had any lasting effect on the victim. Bond was unaware that US postal investigators were watching and recording her actions as evidence. Federal prosecutors moved in and slapped the Bajan with charges brought under a statute that was passed in order to implement US obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998. In the end, the Bajan pleaded guilty to causing a slight injury to Haynes but retained the right to appeal her case on 10th Amendment grounds. That amendment holds that 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”. As punishment, Bond was sent to federal prison for six years but she appealed her case and it ended up before the Supreme Court, which decided unanimously that as an individual, the Bajan had a right to challenge federal court decisions using the 10th Amendment. When the case went back to a lower court, she lost and she returned it on appeal to the Supreme Court. Conservative scholars and media gurus mounted a spirited national legal defence on Bond’s behalf, because they insisted the federal government and the Congress over-reached themselves and must be stopped from becoming too powerful. “No one argues that Bond intended to kill with the bright orange chemical her victims detected,” George Will, perhaps America’s best known leading conservative pundit, wrote in a syndicated column. “And the federal government didn’t intervene because her action threatened a distinct federal interest. It intervened because it thought it could.”

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